Work to create a legacy to London 2012 starts now
Young Paralympic spectators tell Nina Lakhani of their sporting hopes for the future
Monday 10 September 2012
"Inspire a Generation" was the motto. The promise to deliver an Olympics and Paralympics legacy was a crucial part of London's successful bid seven years ago, and has been oft repeated since. There is no doubt that the Games have generated an incredible enthusiasm for sport and competition. Yet, whether schools and sports clubs have the capacity to turn this into long-term sports participation, especially among disabled children and adults, is uncertain.
There are some positive signs. The Disability Legacy Project has been working with sports clubs in the five London host boroughs, and there is anecdotal evidence of waiting lists to join clubs elsewhere in the country. But there is much work to be done and, according to Mark Hardie, chief executive of Access Sport, which funds the DLP, there is concern that "unless the right heads are banged together and the political lobbying keeps going on, the momentum from the Games will disappear".
So has a generation been inspired? The Independent asked some of the young spectators at the Paralympics for their personal legacies.
Carly Middlemiss, an 18-year-old from Lincoln, has cerebral palsy: "Ellie Simmonds is amazing – a role model for everyone"
"Watching Ellie Simmonds win gold was my best moment, I never knew her before, she's amazing, she's so young and so good, a role model for everyone and it's inspired me to watch her on TV more.
"The Paralympics have shown everyone what different disabled people with different needs can do. I would like to try some of the sports but apart from at my school, there aren't any clubs I can use near my house. I'd really like to play sports with non-disabled kids too."
"I want to do sitting volleyball so I can meet other children like me"
Mia Woods, seven, and her brother Dylan, 10, are from Reading. Mia had a tumour in her chest as a baby, which caused a spinal cord injury. "I want to do sitting volleyball because I want to meet other children like me," she said. The siblings go to a SportsAble club, but there is no sitting volleyball. Dylan said: "People aren't staring at Mia like they usually do. It's really nice that she doesn't stand out."
"The biggest legacy would be a change in people's attitudes"
Aidan Sinnott, 18, from Wexford in Ireland has Down's syndrome. He has loved watching the swimming and Ireland's visually impaired sprinter, Jason Smyth, but his favourite sport is boccia. He hopes to represent Ireland one day. His mother Ann Sinnott said: "The biggest legacy the Paralympics could leave would be a change in people's attitudes."
"TV highlights of the boccia world cup would be a great legacy"
Tom Murray, 23, from Southend-on-Sea, is a big boccia fan and plays for the Dovedale Flyers in Colchester. "It's good to see people ask questions about disabilities, they shouldn't be afraid to ask; we don't bite, you know. I would love to see disabled sports stay on the TV. A highlights programme during the boccia world cup – that would be a great legacy."
"The Paralympics show that it's possible to do anything"
James Davey, 10, from Blackmore in Essex, lost his left leg (below the knee) in a car accident. He is pictured with his brother, Scott, eight, and sister, Charlotte, seven. He loved the one-legged high jump and blind long jump: "They show people that it's possible to do anything. I do cricket, football, tennis and swimming but I really want to try wheelchair basketball, I hope I can play it somewhere near me." His mum, Ali Davey, said: "He doesn't see other amputees on a day-to-day basis, so the Paralympics have been really good for him to see."
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