Hannah Cockroft leads Paralympians back to the Olympic Stadium


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The Independent Online

For Hannah Cockroft, it was a day of coming in from the cold. First, the Arctic Pennine weather forced the wheelchair racer who struck double sprint gold at the London Paralympics to abandon plans to train outdoors on the track in her native Halifax. "It was a bit of a health and safety issue," she said. "I had to come inside to the gym."

When "Hurricane Hannah" and her trusty racing chariot were snugly in the warmth there came a further glow with the news that the home Paralympic heroes of London 2012 will get the chance to light up the Olympic Stadium again this summer.

It had already been announced that the annual London Grand Prix IAAF Diamond League meeting was to be switched from Crystal Palace to the showpiece Olympic arena on Saturday 27 July, the anniversary of the spectacular opening ceremony. But UK Athletics have announced that the meet would become the London Anniversary Games, a three-day extravaganza, featuring able-bodied Olympians in Diamond League action on the Friday and Saturday, and showcasing Paralympians on the Sunday, 28 July. An integration of Olympic and Paralympic events across the three days is not possible because of a clash of dates with the International Paralympic Committee World Championships in Lyons.

"It's really exciting," said Cockroft, winner of the T34 100m and 200m titles at the London Paralympics. "We're going to have a full audience and to be able to relive all the fun of London 2012. As soon as I got off the track after my last race at the Paralympics, I said: 'I wish I could do this again.' And now I've got that opportunity. It'll be absolutely incredible. This is all part of the legacy. Everyone's banging on about it but this is it. It's keeping that public interest there. At the Paralympics in Beijing in 2008 it was: 'Well done' for the two weeks we were in action, and then everyone seemed to think we went to sleep for four years. This shows people that we're still around and still working hard.

"If we can fill the stadium for that one day then it will show the interest is there. That's the challenge for us."

Ticket details have yet to be announced but 40,000 people have already registered an interest on the British Athletics website. "Demand for tickets has already been huge and the three-day format ensures we will give as many people as possible the chance to be in the stadium," said Niels de Vos, the chief executive of UK Athletics.

The news was welcomed by Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London 2012 organising committee and vice president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, organisers of the Diamond League circuit. "I am delighted that the London Anniversary Games has been confirmed as three days of international athletics this July," said the two-time Olympic 1500m champion. "London 2012 was an amazing year for British sport and what a way to celebrate its success by welcoming the world back to London once more to watch the biggest names in athletics."