The Paralympics: Eleven days 'will change the world'

Games are expected to transform how people perceive disability

The head of the international Paralympic movement believes the London Games will usher in "a new enlightenment of the 21st century", ending the marginalisation of people with disabilities. As more than 4,000 athletes from 165 countries arrive in Britain, Sir Philip Craven revealed his dream that 11 exhilarating days of sport, beginning on Wednesday, will "change perceptions once and for all".

Millions of Britons are expected to tune in as ParalympicsGB attempts to win a total of 103 gold medals in at least 12 sports.

In an exclusive interview, Sir Philip, the president of the International Paralympic Committee, told The Independent on Sunday of his ambition for the event: "I want this mythical group of citizens of this country just viewed as individuals and not collectivised and marginalised, but viewed for what they're good at, what they enjoy.

"The fact that your legs don't work doesn't mean that your brain and your heart don't work. Let's change perceptions once and for all. Let this be the new enlightenment of the 21st century."

Sir Philip's words hint at the theme of his speech at Wednesday's opening ceremony, which is entitled Enlightenment. It will feature hundreds of disabled performers. There will be a new set of 106 copper petals on Thomas Heatherwick's cauldron for the lighting of the Paralympic flame in the Olympic Stadium.

The opening ceremony will also include a fly-past – not from the Red Arrows, but a team assembled by Aerobility, a charity that helps put those with impairments who fly. The Mercury Prize-winning singer PJ Harvey will perform alongside disabled artists who will premiere their music at the ceremony. Professor Stephen Hawking is also tipped to appear.

Before the ceremony, four Paralympic flames, lit at the four home nation's highest peaks, will travel around the UK. The Northern Ireland flame arrived at the Stormont Assembly yesterday. Today, a torch will be lit in Edinburgh, and on Tuesday flames from across the UK will come together in Stoke Mandeville, where the first sparks of the Paralympic movement were lit, when Sir Ludwig Guttmann set up a parallel Games for spinal-cord patients in 1948.

There are already signs that attitudes towards the Paralympics are changing. A survey for Sainsbury's, a Games sponsor, found that two-thirds of children are excited about the Paralympics, and one in five plan to watch the British swimmer Ellie Simmonds in the 100m freestyle.

Sir Philip said that the euphoric moments after the Games would offer the perfect opportunity to make life more equal in Britain for those with impairments. "If it can be done on the crest of a very positive wave then you've got far more chance of it being accepted," he said.

If politics were kept away, the legacies of both Games should last for decades, he added. "Throughout this 21st century, there should be legacies. It's not a five-year plan: this is a plan for 2050 maybe. We need to keep that going and realise that it's not a political football."

He believes that if more sports clubs opened their doors to everyone, spending cuts need not have an impact on access to sport for those with disabilities. "I want to see far more people with an impairment practising sport, not necessarily to become Paralympians, but to get the benefit of it, to become fit."

Stephen Miller and Tracey Hinton were yesterday announced as captains of the ParalympicsGB athletics team. The pair, who have competed at nine Games between them, were introduced to the 48-strong team at their training camp in Portugal on Friday. Miller, who has cerebral palsy, is a three-time gold medallist in the club throw, and Hinton is a sprinter who has won three silver and three bronze medals in previous Games. She lost her sight at the age of four.

Oscar Pistorius, the only double amputee to compete in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games, has spoken of the Games' potential to change global attitudes to disability. "I can honestly say I've run everywhere in the world. When it comes to education surrounding disability, the UK is probably at the forefront and I think that is going to be very important," he said yesterday.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project