Tag Archives: 2012 Summer Olympics

National Paralympics Day: join the legacy debate

Saturday is the first National Paralympics Day. It’s one more chance to relive the magic of London 2012.

The spotlight will again be on Queen Elizabeth Park. Here’s a plug from Paralympic Judo bronze medallist Ben Quilter:  “There are elite sport matches taking place at the Copper Box Arena, opportunities to meet Paralympic athletes, come-and-try sessions for people to get involved in, and the fantastic Liberty Festival to experience”.

The milestone is also another chance to ask if the Paralympics improved daily life for disabled people.

To mark National Paralympics Day we’re publishing exclusive new interviews with gold medal-winning Paralympian Sophie Christiansen – who’s going to be at Queen Elizabeth Park this weekend – and Tyler Saunders, who left his job last year to make it in wheelchair basketball.

Paralympian Sophie Christiansen asks ‘Did the Paralympics improve the lives of disabled people?’

Professional wheelchair basket player Tyler Saunders  says “Disabled sports have slipped back into the shadows.”

Here is an interview with Tyler reflecting on a what’s happened since London 2012, and here’s Tyler doing pull ups sat in his wheelchair!

And check out disabled entrepreneur (and good friend of Scope) Martyn Sibley. He’s setting off on an epic journey from John O’Groats to Land’s End in his electric wheelchair. Martyn hopes to raise awareness of the challenges disabled people face and how they can be overcome… even if you’re not a gold medal winning Paralympian.

For Scope it is really important that we ask disabled people about legacy.

The Government had big ambitions for how the Paralympics could change the lives of all disabled people (not just Paralympians), and although legacy is a long term project, a year on is a good time to ask how it’s going.

The legacy debate has been bubbling away for the last month.

In July the Government published independent research. Well known former Paralympians had their say. Scope has been asking disabled people, what they thought, and in August we published a summary of their views.

Overwhelming people said that 2012 was an incredible moment, but that one year on legacy is in danger of going off course as a result of hardening attitudes to welfare and a crisis in living standards for disabled people.

There’s still time to join the debate. We want to hear your hopes for Paralympics legacy and what needs to be done to achieve it. Tell us on Facebook or tweet using #paralympicseffect and #NPD13.

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.