Government reports on Paralympics legacy

Paralympic Opening Ceremony
Paralympic Opening Ceremony (Photo credit: MegMoggington)

The Government has today published its assessment of the financial and social impact of London 2012.

The £9.9bn boost for the economy has grabbed the headlines.

But the report also looks at Paralympics legacy.

The Government previously outlined the three things it wanted the Games to do: change attitudes and improve participation in sport and community engagement.

The report says in big letters: “The Games improved attitudes to disability and provided new opportunities for disabled people to participate in society”

David Weir
David Weir (Photo credit: The Department for Culture, Media and Sport)

But the Telegraph spots a note of caution in the detail: “While the Paralympics improved public attitudes to disabled people, this has been undermined by the debate over the government’s welfare reforms, the evaluation suggested.”

Meanwhile the Sun asked Paralympian David Weir what difference the Games made to his life. “I live in the same council house with three kids,” he said.

These concerns echo points made by Scope Chief Executive Richard Hawkes in the Independent yesterday: “If the Government really wants to honour the legacy of the Paralympics and change things for the better, it has got to stop fuelling that narrative and demonising benefits claimants… you can’t have the Paralympics every day. But we should aspire to make the atmosphere of positivity towards disability a part of everyday life”.

Over the next couple of weeks Scope will be bringing together disabled people to say what they think about the Paralympics Effect. Watch this space.

So what exactly does the report say about the impact of 2012 on disabled people?

Here are the key points

The report says the Games “were a unique opportunity for sharing positive messages about disabled people, which led to an up-swell in positive public attitudes and perceptions of disabled people”.

There are some good stats on Channel 4’s coverage:

“More than 500 hours of coverage were broadcast across all platforms, 350 hours over the stated target and four times more than from the Beijing Paralympics in 2008. It included 16 hours of live coverage every day and 1.3 million live streams online. The coverage reached an unprecedented share of the audience, and achieved record viewing figures. Almost 40 million people – more than two thirds of the UK population – viewed the Paralympic Games on TV.[1] Overall, 25% of all TV viewers watched Channel 4’s coverage every day. Peak viewing levels reached 11.6 million for the opening ceremony – Channel 4’s biggest audience in more than a decade – and 6.3 million watched Jonnie Peacock win Gold in the T44 100m, the largest rating for a single Paralympic event. Channel 4 also ensured that 50% of on-screen talent for Paralympic broadcasts were disabled people.”

A name-check for Scope research:

“Research by the disability charity Scope found that 62% of disabled people believed the Paralympics could improve attitudes towards disabled people. Independent media analysis showed a major improvement in the way disability was covered in the press in the year of the Paralympics, with a peak in the level of coverage of disabled people which used positive and empowering terminology.”

But the report offers a bit of reality check too:

“How long the uplift in public attitudes will last is more questionable. Stakeholders broadly agreed that the improvement in attitudes was at risk of being a relatively short-term improvement and that developments and press coverage since the end of the Games, especially in early 2013 around the context of benefit reform, had affected public perceptions. Encouragingly, rolling survey evidence still being collected[2] shows that even by March 2013 a quarter of people were still saying that the Paralympic Games caused them to have a ‘much more positive view’ of disabled people.”

It then looks at volunteering:

“The Games also opened up a range of volunteering, cultural and sporting opportunities for disabled people that did not exist before. Participation in volunteering by disabled people increased year-on-year to 2012, compared to 2005/06, and 4% of Games Maker volunteers had a disability.

And sport:

“Participation in sport and recreational activity[3] by disabled people also increased by 4.2 percentage points in 2012 from 2005/06. This was in part driven by legacy programmes such as the Inclusive Sport Fund, which is investing over £10 million of National Lottery funding into projects designed to increase the number of disabled young people and adults regularly playing sport, along with opportunities offered by the School Games, Sportivate, Inspire projects and Legacy Trust UK. The School Games national event in May 2012 in the Olympic Park involved 167 disabled athletes (11.6% of the total) and all the facilities in the Olympic Park have been designed to be accessible to disabled participants and attendees.”


[1] Channel 4 (2012) The London 2012 Games. Brought to you by Channel 4. Based on three minute reach of TV coverage over duration of the Paralympic Games.

[2] Games-related questions commissioned by Department for Work and Pensions were asked in five waves of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Opinions and Lifestyle Survey from November 2012 to March 2013.

[3] Based on 1×30 minutes of moderate intensity sport in the last week including recreational cycling and walking as measured by Taking Part.