Time out with the IPC President
Having interrogated Sir Philip Craven on the issuessurrounding the “inclusion of athletes with disabilities in mainstream sport” (see previous issue of Rolling Inspiration), during his whistle stop tour ofSouth Africa for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) session, I was ableto catch up on other general matters.
It was refreshing to hear his comment (on the organisationof the session, staged at the International Conference Centre in Durban) thatthe general opinion of those attending was that it was “the best ever”. I willtake that from Sir Philip - though in my years on the front line, every eventwas the “best ever”! He commented on slick organisation, great entertainmentand superb organisation.
The little that I watched left me fairly disappointed inthat, as the IPC President, at no time was Sir Philip Craven acknowledged assuch? Yes, this was an IOC Session and yes, the IOC President (Jacques Rogge)was the man of the moment, but surely the announcement of the Winter Games in2018 was also pertinent to the Paralympics? It was even more pertinent givenSouth Africa’s fantastic record at the Paralympics – so much then forinclusion!
The good news for Sir Philip though is that, aside from hisrole as IPC President, he was elected as a full IOC member, meaning that he cancontinue to impact and be a crusader for the Paralympics, perhaps strengtheninghis grip slightly and allowing him to influence his fellow IOC members as tothe values and ideals of the Paralympic movement.
Sir Philip is hopeful too that Africa will begin to shinethrough in a more convincing way at future Paralympics. According to him, thereis a new spring in the step of the African Sports Confederation of Disabled (ASCOD), headed by Leonel Da Rocha Pinto from Angola. ASCOD was a previousstronghold of the Arab States to the North who were largely ineffective and itis a good challenge for Pinto’s new executive committee to ignite Africa’scall. It is quite pitiful to see some of the smaller and poorer nations in themarch past at Paralympics. Often the political agendas have been more importantthan their sporting prowess at the games but they too need their place in thesun.
So why then does Sir Philip Craven believe that the 2012 Paralympic Games in London will be a success? From a South African perspectivethere are several obvious reasons. For starters, the language, food, timedifference (one hour) are huge positives, as is the accessibility to the UKfrom here – daily flights etc. Then there is the British way of organisingmajor events; they are slick, well-versed and pay attention to detail.
Not so great, from a disability point of view, is access tothe London Underground. Certain stations will be upgraded and some of the moremodern ones are fine. There are those however that are just so old and so deepthat they simply cannot sustain major structural change – one hopes though thataccessibility will be vastly improved.
Certainly the “Javelin Train” – a high-speed train similarto our Gautrain - ferrying passengers to the East of London where the OlympicPark is situated, will make life easier and will be accessible.
If the weather is good, there will be no better place to bethan London and wow, it is rapidly approaching, so get on board!
One of Sir Philip and Lady Craven’s last duties was to meetand greet the sponsors of the South African Paralympic Team. There is no doubtthat International sponsors / partners are seeing more commercial viability andvalue in the Paralympics. Sir Philip was glowing when he addressedrepresentatives fromMercedes – Benz South Africa, Nedbank, Pick n Pay,Sasol, Telkom, Vodacom and Sun International, praising and thanking them forthe exemplary trend that they set for the Paralympic movement. On the level ofsponsorship of teams in many so-called first world countries he said they couldlearn from South Africa in many ways.
Fittingly, the “Last Lunch” was held at The Saxon in Northern Johannesburg. Madiba stayed at The Saxon when penning his Long Walk to freedom. I felt a spirit there, and so indeed did Sir Philip and Lady Craven.