Paralympics 2012

This is the “script” for a school assembly I am doing on Monday, to all pupils from Y1 to Y11. It’s all still very fresh in the memory, and the emotions I felt at the time still very much present, so I am not quite sure how it’s going to go… I will let you know!

These numbered notes are designed to go with the pages of this slideshow, and if you are interested, I have about another 1400 photos!

  1. My Paralympic experience began in 2012, when I applied immediately for a volunteer role once I heard that LOCOG was on the lookout for what they were already calling “Gamesmakers”. A real once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! I was called to interview at the National Sailing Centre in Weymouth – itself an Olympic and Paralympic venue-to-be. The interviewer was very interested in my languages, and intimated that an interesting role might be in the offing… My participation was confirmed in 2011, and gradually over a period of months and several days training in London, my role became clearer! At the outset, I will admit that I was hoping for a job at the Olympics… but having experienced what I have over the summer, I am now SO glad that I got one at the Paralympics instead (which is not to say that I didn’t wear a hole in my sofa watching the Olympics coverage first!)
  2. I was assigned to the Paralympic Athletes’ Village – designed for the Paralympians, but the Olympians were allowed to use it as well… 😉
  3. The Village will become a sort of “new town” after the Games
  4. and so streets have already been named as part of the Borough of Newham
  5. Each country decorated its own block with flags, banners and messages…
  6. Some scenes in the Village. Other scenes which stick in the memory, but which I didn’t photograph: groups of visually-impaired athletes being shepherded about the place by sighted team-mates; athletes in their “day-chairs” zooming about the streets pushing their own racing chairs in front of them, on their way to training; power-chair users towing colleagues around… Teamwork, collective spirit, and FUN!
  7. I started work in the International Paralympic Committee’s Information Centre, in the central Village Plaza area…
  8. …a mixture of a museum, an advice bureau for athletes, an interview studio, a TV room with big flat-screens for watching live events…
  9. …and an ipad table for athletes to surf the net, check their Facebook and Twitter feeds, and so on!
  10. I also worked a few days in the Athletes’ Dining Hall, where we were trying to encourage the busy athletes to vote in their Athletes’ Council Election
  11. All of this gave me plenty of opportunities for souvenir pin-swapping with athletes around the Village (and getting my own commemorative 2012 stamps made!)
  12. One very important presence in the IPC Info Centre was our bronze of Dr Ludwig Guttmann, the inspirational instigator of the very first Games, back in 1948.
  13. At the time, he was working with war veterans in Stoke Mandeville Hospital, and saw sport as a way to give them a reason to live, as well as a therapeutic aid to treatment – where previously most had simply drifted away to death in the beds.
  14. From Guttmann, via the IPC, came the 4 Paralympic Values: Inspiration – Courage – Determination & Equality
  15. Values which we would all do well to live by…
  16. Dr Guttmann’s daughter, Eva Loeffler, who as a small child helped retrieve arrows and run errands at the 1948 Games, was appointed Mayor of the London Paralympic Village. Here she is when I managed to get a picture of her with her amazing dad!
  17. All over the Village, inspirational and uplifting messages for the athletes: “None of us is as good as all of us”
  18. “That which we are, we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield”
  19. “Swim your own race and not someone else’s”
  20. “You’re not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are able by the abilities you have”
  21. Working in the Village gave me the chance to meet and chat with so many Athletes:
  22. Mateja Pintar (table tennis), Slovenian flag-bearer at the opening Ceremony – with hair dyed to match her tracksuit!
  23. Teresa Perales (swimming), Spanish flag-bearer
  24. Ellie Simmonds (needs no introduction!)
  25. Richard Whitehead (200m Gold)
  26. Scott Moorhouse (javelin)
  27. the Team GB Wheelchair Rugby squad
  28. Michael McKillop (800m and 1500m Gold)
  29. Sophie Christiansen (3 Dressage Golds!) and Lee Pearson (9 Dressage Golds at previous Games… and one of each colour this time!)
  30. Jacqui Freney (9 Golds in the pool!); Juan Reyes (Gold for swimming); Heinrich Popow (100m sprint); Esther Vergeer (singles and doubles Gold, Tennis – 470 matches unbeaten!); Achmat Hassiem (lost his leg to a Great White…)
  31. the view most people get of Alan Oliveira! (beat Oscar Pistorius in the 200m)
  32. the Team USA Archery team with Eva Loeffler – including Matt Stutzman, the incredible “armless archer”
  33. Opening Ceremony – to which I received a VIP ticket on the day itself!
  34. …with an amazing seat just 7 rows back, and a luxury picnic!
  35. If you saw it on TV, you will remember the “spark plane” at the start…
  36. …and the umbrella leitmotiv!
  37. I was pretty close to the (other) VIPs…
  38. …but even closer to the real stars, the athletes in the parade, including the helper dogs, the French with their snazzy wheels and the Czech team in their sparkly wellies!
  39. My new camera, with its panorama feature, really came into its own
  40. I was directly opposite the Orbit, with a great view of Royal Marine Joe Townsend(who lost both his legs in Afghanistan)
  41. when he zip-wired in from 350ft up with the Torch
  42. and another great view of Margaret Maughan lighting the Cauldron
  43. (she won GB’s first real Paralympic Gold medal at Rome in 1960)
  44. And I shouted, sang and cried tears of pride when Team GB finally entered the stadium
  45. to the strains of “Heroes”!
  46. We CAN all be heroes, can’t we? I certainly feel as though something inside me has been sparked by what I have seen and felt this Summer. I didn’t want it to ever end… but perhaps it won’t, if we don’t let it…
  47. Thank you, London 2012
  48. 🙂




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