Everything you need to know about GB and the Paralympics

Click to follow
The Independent Online

When and where are the Paralympics?

The opening ceremony is on 29 August, just over two weeks after the Olympics. The Games end on 9 September with the marathon the final event, finishing on The Mall, followed that evening by the closing ceremony back at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford. The Paralympics will be held in the venues built for the Olympics, with the odd exception such as the road cycling which will be held at Brands Hatch.

How do I get tickets?

Tickets go on sale from 9am today via www.tickets.london2012.com. It is the same system used for the Olympics, with the first window staying open until 26 September. Ticket prices range from £5 to £45 for the big athletic and swimming finals nights, with a top price for the opening ceremony of £500. As with the Olympics, the cheapest ticket for the ceremonies is a symbolic £20.12. For the Games as a whole 75 per cent of tickets are priced £20 or under. One difference to the Olympics is day passes – for £10 spectators can get into a number of events at the Olympic Park (but not athletics or swimming) or the Excel centre. A companion seat is included in the price of a wheelchair ticket.

Will there be high demand for tickets?

This will be the first Paralympics for which there are no handouts as organisers are confident of selling out the two million tickets on offer. Much of that optimism, which is echoed by Sir Philip Craven, president of the International Paralympic Committee, is based on receiving more than a million expressions of interest.

How does the Paralympics work? What do all the categories mean?

It's become one of the world's largest sporting events with over 4,500 athletes from 150 nations. There are 20 sports, again mostly on similar lines to the Olympics, with a total of 499 gold medals to be won. Wheelchair rugby – or murderball as the athletes call it – boccia, and goalball are the only unique Paralympic sports. Boccia is similar to boules, while goalball is akin to handball and is played by visually-impaired athletes (they play blindfolded to ensure a level playing field) with a ball that has a bell in it. There are six categories: amputee, cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, wheelchair, visually-impaired and les autres, which includes dwarfism. Within each sport there are then classification systems as athletes are divided depending on differing levels of impairment. In athletics events are tagged T for track or F for field and then a number according to the competing athletes' loss of function (as opposed to disability) – Oscar Pistorius runs in the T44 category, which is for amputees. The 50s cover wheelchair events, 30s cerebral palsy and 11-13 is visually impaired, which includes Jason Smyth, who ran for Ireland in the able-bodied world championships.

There is talk of the Paralympics coming home but isn't this the first time Britain has staged the Games?

On the same day that the London Olympics opened in 1948, Sir Ludwig Guttman, a German Jew who had fled his homeland shortly before the war, staged an archery competition at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire for 16 former British soldiers who had suffered spinal injuries during the Second World War. It has come to be regarded as the birth of the Paralympics – one of the 2012 mascots is called Mandeville – and Guttman, a neurosurgeon who was convinced of the revitalising power of sport, its founding father. It became an annual event with the Dutch providing the first overseas competition. Rome 1960, with 400 athletes from 23 countries, is recognised as the first Paralympics.

How will Britain do?

Very well, but the aim of the British Paralympic Association is not to just collect medals. "Holding the Paralympic Games can have a profound effect on the host country," says Tim Hollingsworth, chief executive of the British Paralympic Association. "That was seen in Beijing where the achievements of people with an impairment, who had once been hidden away, were celebrated by the whole nation." Penny Briscoe, the BPA's performance director, says: "We want to change the way people think and feel about disability, disabled sport and the Paralympics." China will top the medal table – weight of numbers makes that certain. Britain finished second in Beijing with 42 golds and 102 medals; the target is to hold on to that but with more medals. The British team will be around 300 strong, up on the 212 who went to Beijing, with the likes of Lee Pearson, in equestrianism, sprinter Ben Rushgrove, swimmer Ellie Simmonds, cyclist Sarah Storey and wheelchair athlete David Weir strongly fancied to provide a warming succession of gold medals.