The British Paralympic Association is planning a series of sporting "festivals" in the next couple of months in an attempt to build on the expected surge of interest in the wake of the Paralympic Games in London which open tomorrow night.
The festival is one of a number of schemes the BPA is looking to use to broaden the awareness and access to Paralympic sport if its athletes prove as successful as predicted. Britain's team has been given a target of 103 medals, which works out as almost one per hour of competition, and gold medal winners will then be used to spread the "stardust" around the country.
Paralympians will also take part in a victory parade to honour Britain's heroes from both London Games next month, it was announced yesterday. Up to 800 athletes will travel through London on 21 floats as part of the Our Greatest Team Parade on 10 September, which is being organised by the Mayor of London's office, the British Olympic Association and the British Paralympic Association.
Outlining plans for the Paralympic sporting festivals yesterday, Tim Hollingsworth, chief executive of the BPA, said: "This isn't about tokenism. This is a showcase and a moment in time for our athletes. We hope to inspire real change and momentum as a result of our exploits."
The festivals will allow aspiring athletes to try out various Paralympic sports as well as meeting the British medal winners. Hannah Cockcroft and Jonnie Peacock, both of whom have good chances of winning gold in London, were discovered through similar schemes after Beijing but the aim is to make the post-London events more widespread.
The BPA also wants to introduce more high-profile competitive events for its athletes to compete in on home soil and so keep Paralympic sport in the public consciousness. One event under consideration is a competition based on the four home nations, with athletes competing in the colours of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Announcing the victory parade, Boris Johnson, the London Mayor, said: "In the ancient world crowds would line the streets to welcome their triumphant Olympians home, where they would be ecstatically venerated. But no sporting heroes will have been more lauded, no achievements more celebrated, and no nation more passionately proud than at the Our Greatest Team Parade, which will sweep through central London in a glorious miasma of colour, noise and excitement."
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- Festive Events (including Carnivals)