Paralympics ‘Can top main games’

AS THE second round of Olympic ticket sales closes this weekend, there is a message of hope for the thousands who have slammed down their laptop lids in frustration.
Those who have failed to get tickets for London 2012 – the majority of sports fans who tried – will soon get another opportunity to watch the action in the Olympic Park.

Noel Thatcher, a veteran of six Games, believes there will be an even better sporting experience next year at the Paralympics, tickets for which go on sale on September 9.

“If you want to see great spectacle and razzmatazz go to the Olympics, if you want to see great sport with a capital S and see achievement, go to the Paralympics,” said Thatcher, a 5k and 10k runner who competed from 1984 to 2004 and won five Paralympic golds.

“I have no qualms saying that. It might upset some people at LOCOG [the London Organising Committee], but there is very little money there in the Paralympics, very little overt corporate financial overtones. “It is pure sport and, from the human interest point of view, you cannot fail to be moved by it.

“I’ve felt for some time the Paralympics has gone beyond being a Cinderella event. Every person who rocks up at a Paralympic Games has had to struggle that little bit extra to achieve what they have. “

You take someone like Oscar Pistorius, the Blade Runner: he does not have to validate himself by taking part in the Olympics, he is a great athlete in his own right.”

Thatcher, 45, a blind runner, was speaking as he prepared to attend another event to heighten awareness of the disabled, the Standard Chartered Great City Race, a 5k run that brings work in London’s financial hub to a standstill for a day.

Some 6,500 men and women from the City’s corporate companies swap their grey suits and calculators for trainers and heart-monitors on Thursday to raise money for the charity Seeing is Believing, which tackles preventable blindness.

The race takes in part of the Marathon course for next summer’s Games, which Thatcher believes will be vital for raising the awareness of the disabled athlete. The Paralympics follow the Olympics in late August 2012 in what is seen as one festival of sport.

“One of the functions of the Paralympics, apart from the fact it is the second largest multiple sports event in the world, is that it has a responsibility to highlight the issues faced by various disabled sections of the global population. It brings the issues into the open and gets them talked about,” said Thatcher, a physiotherapist and Paralympics ambassador.

“For lots of reasons these days, children with a disability are often not allowed to take part in sport at school. I came across a case recently of a 16-year-boy arriving at sixth form college with a visual impairment who had never experienced running in his life – and this is in England, the birthplace of the Paralympic movement.

“There is definitely a need for this shop window, it is hugely important.” Running while partially sighted does, of course, have its different demands.

While Thatcher has some peripheral sight, he will still need a guide runner for the City Race even after collecting 42 gold medals at Olympics and World and European Championships.

Yes, even champions need some help – as he discovered on one run in Hereford when he tried to go it alone and led the front pack into a barn.

“I remember I felt quite lively and went to the front and, of course, we came to a fork in the road. I went left and the course went right – and we ended up in the farm buildings.”

Keep the barns and tractor sheds around Threadneedle Street and Cheapside locked this week. Noel Thatcher is an ambassador for the Standard Chartered Great City Race.

Content Sourced from The Express Website

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