Welcome to the SportsAble Blog – an exciting new blog containing stories and opinions on disability sport. Members, Patrons, Trustees and Staff will all be contributing over the forthcoming months so stay tuned for uplifting stories, thought-provoking articles and ways in which you can get involved.
Our first entry is from SportsAble’s CEO, Kerl Haslam, who talks about the legacy of the Paralympic Games and what needs to happen now to ensure the success of future events.
I was recently asked to appear on a BBC radio chat show and the topic was ‘Are we ready for Tokyo or has the London 2012 Paralympic Games’ bubble burst?’
The enthusiastic and well informed presenter Chris Hollins engaged his listeners with all the right questions: Are people still getting involved in disability sport? Do disabled people still want to get out and get active or has the good work of the Paralympic Games of 2012 been undone?
We spent a good half an hour talking about the power of the Paralympic Games and it was a great opportunity for me to explain how sport can turn someone’s life around – particularly if they have been ill or depressed or immobile for a long time – but it was also a good opportunity for me to raise some issues that many may not know about.
The London 2012 Paralympic Games was an incredible event that put disability sports on the map and the media campaigns were phenomenal, raising the profile of para sport up as an equal to all other sports.
As a result of that, SportsAble saw more people joining and more volunteers getting involved – which is fantastic for a grassroots charity like ours – and we hope that it continues.
However, those of us working in disability sports feel that the media did too good a job. It created stories and images of athletes as ‘superhuman superheroes’ and it packaged para sports up in a neat little box as something that is thriving and in need of nothing. This is far from the truth.
Disability sports charities like ours, and the athletes themselves, are in serious need of support. As a charity, we have noticed that donations have decreased and fewer fundraisers are coming forward.
We need £300,000 a year just to keep going and to provide our members with training and support to reach their own goals. We are far from superhuman and in fact need an army of people to help us to continue to change disabled people’s lives through sport.
For our athletes, the situation is the same, even more so for the more famous faces of the Games. People have assumed that due to their successful profile that they are no longer in need of sponsorship. This has left many, once well supported athletes, without backing and with a very bleak view of what lays ahead.
Take Sophie Christiansen for example, the hugely successful ten- time Paralympic medallist and patron of SportsAble. She has been struggling to get funding for her new horse, Harry, and the equipment she needs.
The London 2012, and indeed the Rio 2016 Games, were so inspirational and they have turned us into a more accepting and aspirational nation but we are only at the very beginning of this new era of inclusion and appreciation of ability and to continue and honour the good work of the Games investment at every level needs to be made.
We are keen to talk to individuals and companies who – like many – were once inspired by the Games but who – unlike others – are willing to become educated in para sports, to stay with us on this epic journey and to support us rather than watch from afar.
We promise to inspire you every day with stories from our many members and we promise to engage you in unique activities that will leave you with a greater appreciation for life and we promise that you won’t be disappointed as you help us change lives of disabled people who, without sport and the support they receive from us, would leave very different lives.
I look forward to hearing from you