Let the Paralympics Begin!

Thursday, August 30th, 2012 @ 9:00AM

The Paralympics have sold 2.4 million tickets. Due to demand they released 70 thousand more tickets and 50 thousand were snatched up in three hours! These impressive sales show just how excited people are here about the paralympics. Deputy PM Nick Clegg at an earlier reception made the point that after the buzz of the Olympics, everyone wanted more and couldn’t wait for the Paralympics to begin!

For our team of 161 athletes and 140 officials, all primed from their fantastic team gathering in Cardiff, Wales, London is shaping up to be an incredible experience.  Here is the official website for the team.

Yesterday I attended the Athlete Village welcoming ceremony for the Aussie Team and the excitement was palpable. The Governor General was there and spent the day meeting with athletes in the village. Later we attended a reception for family and friends hosted by the Australian Paralympic Committee. It was great talking to parents and siblings about the athlete in their family! I also met Marie, the lucky Australia Post employee who entered the Aussie Post Staff competition to travel to London to be the Athlete’s postie at the village! How cool! 

The Paralympics has its roots in Stoke Mandeville, a hospital which specialised in treating people with spinal injuries. The visionary Doctor Guttman organised what was forerunner of the ‘parallel’ Olympic games for people rehabilitating from serious spinal injuries. In 1948, 14 men and 2 women took part in an Archery contest. For more history about how and where the Paralympics began started check out this story.

One of the women who competed back then is in the opening ceremony tonight! There was a wonderful video montage of her and three others right at the start of the ceremony. Now over 80, Margaret Maughan reflects warmly on her memories at Stoke Mandeville,  facing her new reality of paralysis from the waist down after a car accident at the age of 24, and being encouraged into competitive sport as part of her therapy. She said Dr Guttman said she ought to focus on what she can do not what she can’t do and this became her motto. She went on to win a Gold Medal for Britain at the first officially named Paralympic Games in Rome in 1960.

Australian Paralympians competed at the 1960 games, but had a team in the 1957 Stoke Mandeville Games. Frank Ponta, an Aussie Paralympian from this era was a trailblazer and one of the first three inductees into the Australian Paralympic Hall of Fame. This Hall of Fame came into existence last year and is a brilliant showcase for our athletes. Have a look.

The International Paralympic Committee is web casting. I think this is the link but When I checked the server didn’t respond… Maybe too many hits :-) And of course the ABC coverage in Australia should be sensational too!

This evening’s opening ceremony was brilliant, with the theme of enlightenment, empowerment featuring Stephen Hawking. It had umbrellas, smoke filled bubbles, glitter clouds, awesome music, a moon, books (windows to the mind) apples, a giant telescope and sextant: Perfect blend of science and sport. I love it!

BTW just in case you havent worked it out yet, Mandeville, the Paralympic Mascot is named after the Stoke Mandeville facility where it all started.
Finally, you can follow the Aussie team @AUSParalympics on twitter.
And it’s worth saving a search for #paralympicfact too!

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