Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Our Capital Is Perfect Stage for These More Enlightened Times

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Our Capital Is Perfect Stage for These More Enlightened Times

Article excerpt

Byline: Seb Coe

THE very talented Jenny Sealey and Bradley Hemmings were the creative brains behind the opening ceremony of London's Paralympic Games in 2012. They chose the Age of Enlightenment as the theme for the show. I am sure I don't have to explain to the readership of this newspaper that the Enlightenment promoted a world of education and reason; and the underlying faith that, as both propagated, ignorance and superstition would wither on the vine.

The ceremony was a clever, thoughtful and, at times, breathtaking ceremony. And throughout the three-hour sweep, the stars of the show all with disability and impairment began the narrative of those Games. Put simply, everything we were watching and being achieved by people with disability, the so-called able-bodied populace could not begin to match. In fact, wouldn't get within the proverbial country mile.

Although Danny Boyle's opening ceremony for the Olympics, chronicling our journey from agrarian to digital world and famously topped off by the Queen jumping into the summer skies of East London from a helicopter, was an absolute showstopper, it was the Paralympic opener that surprised and challenged us.

It was meant to. The Beijing Paralympics in 2008 raised the bar dramatically: "Games of equal splendour", the Chinese dubbed them. Our London teams, either watching in the iconic Bird's Nest or back at base, knew the gauntlet had unmistakeably been thrown in our path.

London was the first games to have one organising committee responsible for the delivery of both Olympic and Paralympic Games. Chris Holmes, now a peer of the realm and our most decorated Paralympian in the pool, became the first director of Paralympic integration. His job was to make sure that every level of service offered to Olympians, was replicated for the Paralympians. And to keep the rest of us honest to our bid promises. He did both.

London also had another advantage and it lay in its history. The genesis of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is British and currently headed by the no-nonsense Lancastrian Sir Philip Craven, who has made brave decisions and steered the body to real global presence. At the same time as the 'Austerity Games' were taking place in our war-torn capital in 1948, Ludwig Guttmann, a visionary surgeon from Stoke Mandeville Hospital, staged his own competition. Guttmann, whose daughter, Eva Loeffler, shared mayoral duties in the athletes' village during the 2012 Paralympics, used sport as a bridgehead to the rehabilitation of broken minds and bodies. By 1952, he had started to reach out to overseas competitors, who travelled to the Buckinghamshire hospital to compete. By 1960, the first Paralympic events appeared in the Rome Games. Jingoism aside, the rest is history, and it is in greater part a British history. …

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