Sporting goals in my sights
As I readied myself to fly to Singapore to attend the final stage of London’s bid to stage the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, many thoughts flashed through my head!
As I stepped off the plane in Singapore on 4th July as part of the Olympic and Paralympic bid committee, I felt proud, confident and excited to be part of the team attempting to win the biggest sporting prize of all for London.
I was born in Hackney and went blind aged ten from a firework accident very near to where the new cycling facility is due to be built for 2012. I have always been a sports fanatic, playing sport for my primary and junior school, but when I went to Linden Lodge I thought my sporting days were over as, of course, “visually impaired people couldn’t do sport”! On my first day when I was being shown around the grounds by another pupil I was first knocked down by a blind guy driving a go-cart and then flattened again, (once I had picked myself up) by another blind guy chasing the first one, on roller skates!
I am currently Chairman of the British Paralympic Association, Vice President of my sports club Metro, and a past chairman of British Blind Sport, and therefore Jacque Rogge's announcement on 6th July that “London” were to be hosts of the Olympics and Paralympics in 2012 was one of the best moments in my life, and was exactly the boost that sport for athletes with a disability in Britain needs.
Britain finished second in the Paralympic medal table behind Australia in Sydney in 2000, and behind China in Athens in 2004. China look to be invincible in Beijing in 2008 but on home soil, in London, in 2012, who knows.
Visually impaired athletes have always played a significant part in Britain’s success and the challenge now is to create the environment for young, talented blind and partially sighted sports stars to come through. I remember well selecting a 16 year old Noel Thatcher to take part in his first European Games. Some thought he was too young but he came back from those championships with a bronze medal and a passion for winning.
As well as providing opportunities for athletes with a disability to perform on the biggest sporting stage in the world, I, as part of the London Organising Committee, am committed to ensuring that the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games provide unparalleled opportunities for people with a disability to be employed in delivering the games, working as volunteers, and enjoying and experiencing access and audio facilities never seen before.
Representatives from RNIB, Guide Dogs and many other groups are part of an advisory group inputting into issues relating to disability and the 2012 Games.
Unequalled coverage by the BBC will ensure fantastic images of “ability in action” and I believe that the Games will provide a significant opportunity to challenge public perceptions of disability.
My sense of pride and elation on July 6th was replaced, (once I had sobered up on July 8th!!) by a sense of sheer panic as to how much has to be done in the next seven years.
Having regained the “Ashes” in September, we are on a roll and I feel we can do anything in the sporting context with good planning, commitment and passion, all of which we have in abundance.
MIKE BRACE OBE