sport

London 2012 inspires BPA

The British Paralympic Association hopes to harness the momentum of London 2012 in 2013 at elite and recreational level.

This week marks six months since the London 2012 Games and one year until the next Paralympics - the Winter Games of Sochi 2014.

While the two could not be more different for a host of reasons, from a British perspective the landmarks offer the opportunity to reflect on the impact of London 2012 - indisputably the greatest Paralympics ever.

The BPA saw over 1000 attend their first SportsFest in Guildford in December and hopes similar numbers flock to Sheffield to try Paralympic sport in April.

BPA chief executive Tim Hollingsworth believes the momentum has been carried from London 2012, but the challenge remains to encourage participation and elite-level competition globally.

Hollingsworth said: "Across the world Paralympic sport isn't as developed as we'd like to see it, therefore the competitive opportunities aren't the same.

"But they're emerging. There are some high-profile events coming out of 2013.

"There's the opportunity to bring the sports together in the way that we've tried to do, through our SportsFest.

"That's one way where you can see the impact of London. They were inspired by London to have a go at sport, which is great."

The International Paralympic Committee Athletics World Championships are the major focus in the calendar for the likes of London 2012 gold medal winners Jonnie Peacock, Hannah Cockroft and David Weir, while the Olympic Stadium will in July host the Diamond League and a para-athletics competition.

Promoting such events depends on the media and the stars of London 2012.

"It's a challenge to see it on an annual basis," Hollingsworth added.

"The disability sport programme is dependent on those World and European Championship competitions and domestically.

"They are on. The issue is for people to know where they are and to get the opportunity to go to see them."

There is the appetite from organisers of the BT Paralympic World Cup - the largest annual multi-sport event for athletes with impairments, which was put on each May with great success in Manchester in the years leading up to London 2012 - to put on a similar competition in 2013, with plans being developed.

The BPA is keen to see a similar event staged.

"That's the ambition," Hollingsworth said.

"We feel, as the British Paralympic Association, that some form of annual multi-sport competition would be the right way to go and we're investigating that currently.

"At the moment it's trying to get all the pieces of the jigsaw to fit together."

Britain enjoyed stellar success at London 2012, with wheelchair racer Weir and cyclist Sarah Storey - with four gold medals each - leading the way.

In Sochi, expectations are far reduced, with a handful of skiers, headed by IPC World Championships medallist Kelly Gallagher, and a wheelchair curling squad travelling and the participation of the sledge hockey team dependent on qualification.

"Our team size is about a 12th of the one from London," Hollingsworth added.

"That reflects the fact there are fewer sports, but we're not an Alpine nation; it's as true in Paralympic sports as it is in Olympic.

"We'll take at most a team of 25 athletes and it could be as few as a dozen or so.

"That doesn't in any way negate our desire to make sure they're best prepared and to make sure our attitude towards their success is as driven and committed as it is in the summer Games.

"It's a great event, the first Games since London and the first time for us, having been the previous host nation, to show the world how committed we are to the Paralympic Movement."