2012 Summer Paralympics
The 2012 Summer Paralympics, the fourteenth Summer Paralympic Games, and also more generally known as the London 2012 Paralympic Games, were a major international multi-sport event for athletes with disabilities governed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), that took place in London, England from 29 August to 9 September 2012. These Paralympics were one of the largest multi-sport events ever held in the United Kingdom after the 2012 Summer Olympics, and were the largest Paralympics ever: 4,302 athletes from 164 National Paralympic Committees participated, with fourteen countries appearing in the Paralympics for the first time ever. A total of 503 events in 20 sports were held during these games; for the first time since their suspension after the 2000 Paralympics, events for the intellectually disabled were also held in selected sports.
The lead-up to these games prominently emphasized the return of the Paralympic movement to its spiritual birthplace: in 1948, the British village of Stoke Mandeville first hosted the Stoke Mandeville Games, an athletics event for disabled British veterans of the Second World War held to coincide with the opening of the Summer Olympics in London. They were the first-ever organized sporting event for disabled athletes, and served as a precursor to the modern Paralympic Games. Stoke Mandeville also co-hosted the 1984 Summer Paralympics with Long Island, New York, after its original host, the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, pulled out due to financial issues.
Organizers expected the Games to be the first Paralympics to achieve mass-market appeal, fuelled by continued enthusiasm from the British public following the country’s successful performance at the Summer Olympics, awareness of the United Kingdom’s role in the history of the Paralympics, public attention surrounding South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius (who, only just prior to the Paralympics, became the first double amputee to compete in the Summer Olympics alongside able-bodied athletes), a major marketing campaign instituted by the Games’ local broadcaster, and growing media coverage of Paralympic sport. The games ultimately met these expectations, breaking records for ticket sales, heightening the profile of the Paralympics in relation to the Olympics, and prompting IPC president Philip Craven to declare them the “greatest Paralympic Games ever.
Public transport 2012 Summer Olympics
Transport for London operated the Paralympic Route Network (a downsized version of the Olympic Route Network operated during the Summer Olympics) to facilitate road traffic between venues and facilities. The network provided 8.7 miles (14.0 kilometres) of lanes specifically reserved for Paralympic athletes and officials. TfL continued to operate its Get Ahead of the Games website during the Paralympics, which provided updates and advice for commuters during the Games. Prior to the Games, concerns were raised by TfL commissioner Peter Hendy that London’s transportation system might not be able to handle the Paralympics adequately. He feared that the end of the school summer holiday (which fell during the Games) would result in increased traffic, and that commuters might not heed traffic warnings or change their travel behaviour as they had during the Olympics.
Sevenoaks railway station was designated as the preferred station for spectators travelling to watch the cycling at Brands Hatch. Organisers chose Sevenoaks over the closer Swanley railway station because of its “existing step-free access and excellent transport links”, and because Swanley did not yet have a wheelchair lift. Whilst organisers did not believe that Swanley would be able to have wheelchair lifts installed by the start of the Paralympics, the station finished their installation by early August 2012
Lead-up and promotion
The formal handover occurred during the closing ceremony of the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing, when Mayor of London Boris Johnson received the Paralympic Flag from Mayor of Beijing Guo Jinlong. This was followed by a cultural presentation by Britain, which was similar to its presentation during the Olympics’ closing ceremony. It featured urban dance group ZooNation, the Royal Ballet, and Candoco, a physically integrated dance group, all dressed as London commuters and waiting for a bus by a zebra crossing. A double-decker bus drove around the stadium, guided by Ade Adepitan, to music composed by Philip Sheppard. The top of the bus was open and folded down to show a privet hedge featuring London landmarks such as Tower Bridge, The Gherkin and the London Eye. Cherisse Osei, drummer for Mika, and Sam Hegedus then performed, before the top of the bus folded up into its original form, sporting multi-coloured Paralympic livery. Both the Paralympic and Olympic flags were formally raised outside of London’s City Hall on 26 September 2008. British Paralympians Helene Raynsford and Chris Holmes raised the Paralympic flag
Paralympic Day and Super Saturday
On 8 September 2011 Trafalgar Square staged International Paralympic Day, hosted by Rick Edwards, Ade Adepitan and Iwan Thomas, to coincide with a visit to London by representatives of the IPC. The event celebrated the Paralympic Games, showcasing and demonstrating the 20 sports that would feature during the Games (with some sessions also made inclusive to people with hearing disabilities). It also featured appearances by Paralympic athletes Oscar Pistorius, Ellie Simmonds and Sascha Kindred, and the unveiling of a bronze statue of Pistorius by Ben Dearnley. British Prime Minister David Cameron and London’s mayor Boris Johnson also appeared. Two days later on 10 September, supermarket chain Sainsbury’s and Channel 4 presented Sainsbury’s Super Saturday, a family event at Clapham Common. The event featured showcases of Paralympic sports, and a concert featuring pop music acts including Nicola Roberts, Olly Murs, The Wanted, Will Young, Pixie Lott, Dappy, Sugababes, The Saturdays, Chipmunk and Taio Cruz
Royal Mail stamps and gold post boxes
In August 2009 Royal Mail unveiled a series of 30 stamps (reflecting the 30th Olympiad) about the coming Olympic and Paralympic Games. They were released in batches of ten between 2009 and July 2011; each stamp featured an Olympic or Paralympic sport and the London 2012 logo.
As it had done during the Olympics, Royal Mail honoured Britain’s Paralympic gold medallists by painting a post box gold in each of their home towns (along with an additional post box outside the National Spinal Injuries Centre in Stoke Mandeville, in honour of its role in the Games’ history), and featured them on commemorative stamps released throughout the Games. Royal Mail originally planned only to release a series of six stamps with group portraits of Britain’s medallists; however, the decision was met with backlash from critics, who argued that the organization was discriminating against Paralympians by not granting them the same individual recognition as their Olympian counterparts. Olympic shadow minister Tessa Jowell was also critical of Royal Mail’s plan, saying that the stamps were a symbolic aspect of Britain’s celebration of the Olympics and that “it would be a shame if this important symbol was not offered to our Paralympian heroes as well.”
Royal Mail initially defended its decision, arguing that it would have been “logistically and practically impossible” to issue individual stamps for each gold medallist, since it expected the British team to meet or exceed its performance at Beijing of 42 gold medals. As a result of the criticism, Royal Mail announced on 15 August 2012 that it would release individual stamps for each British gold medallist during the Paralympic
by simon schofield