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Great Britons

Celebrating 1,000 days to go until the London 2012 Paralymic Games!

The countdown is on: the London 2012 Paralympic Games kicks off 1,000 days from now with an Opening Ceremony to remember. Fittingly, today is also International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD), a worldwide celebration recognising the contributions and achievements of people with disabilities, so when better to look forward to the next Paralympic Games?

The London 2012 Games will see 20 Paralympic sports played in 21 venues across London and beyond, by 4,200 athletes over 12 days and are set to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for athletes and spectators alike.

In fact, the Paralympic Games has its origins in Britain, as a sporting competition for World War II veterans with spinal injuries was organised at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in 1948 to coincide with London hosting the Olympic Games.

Today, the Paralympic Games is the pinnacle of achievement for many disabled athletes. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) has planned both Games together for an unforgettable sporting spectacle that will last 29 days.

“We are proud to be welcoming the Paralympic Games home,” says Seb Coe, chair of LOCOG. ““We want to use the power of the Games to raise awareness of Paralympic sport, to challenge stereotypes about disability and to give every disabled child a chance to have access to sporting opportunities.”

The partners of the 2012 Games are also firmly behind the Paralympic Games, including British Airways, the official airline partner. To celebrate, BA has launched a search for excellence called Great Britons to find and reward British talent – and both disabled and able-bodied people are encouraged to enter.

The judges are looking for talented individuals and groups who demonstrate the values associated with the Olympic and Paralympic Games and who strive to be the best in their chosen field. The categories are art and design, music, fashion, performing arts, community, and innovation, and only those who are determined, competitive and courageous enough to follow their dreams will win.

Great Britons is open to every UK citizen resident in the UK and aged 16 and over who needs support to develop their talent. The winners get flights to BA destinations and use of its luxury Executive Club lounges, plus a winner’s pack, which includes a camcorder for recording their incredible journey.

Two of the winners so far are sports people who prove that disability isn’t a barrier to incredible achievement. One of these is David Eadie and the Combined Services Disabled Ski Team. The team members all lost limbs in Iraq or Afghanistan or suffered traumatic non-battlefield injuries that prevent them from doing able-bodied sports. They have won flights to the Europa Cup races they need to attend in order to qualify for selection for ParalympicsGB in 2014.

Another of the winners is Geoff Holt, who is currently in Lanzarote preparing for a hazardous solo voyage across the Atlantic in a wheelchair-accessible catamaran, the first quadriplegic to do so. He won BA flights to Antigua for his family, so they can welcome him ashore when he finishes his epic journey in the New Year.