Able & Capable – The Legacy
I really don’t know where to start, where on earth can one begin to even contemplate what these Paralympic Games have achieved, have meant to so many, have gifted to millions of people as a legacy? Regardless of how much RAM you apply to these questions, the whole equation of what has been accomplished is just too big to take in. It feels almost like one has to been sat a couple of meters in front of this enormous cinema size screen, upon which thousands of images in a huge montage constantly changing refreshing with more and more images of the games, it is all too much to process and make sense of, sensory overload would be an understatement. To quote Dr Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory programme, “enough to make your fuzzy little head explode”.
Amongst all these countless images I will forever remember, smile at when they cross my mind in a quiet moment of contemplation; amongst the incredible adrenaline rushes I felt even though I didn’t participate; amongst the tension I felt as races & events waited to start with those seconds before the gun going off making everyone hold their breath; amongst pure energised joy and happiness as we saw people hold their medals aloft for the world to see despite where they had arrive from; and amongst the pure dramas of these magnificent Paralympic Games that have come to mean so much to me and I suspect millions of other people; amongst all this and more there are things we have now been taught that must never, ever be forgotten or lost with the erosion to time.
If I was to name all these element it could take a 1,000 pages or more, so I will restrict myself for everyone’s sake to just those I personally never want to forget, the meanings and influences I have found from the games. The first that comes to my mind is the pure focus and energy Lord Coe has delivered as the lead of multiple teams, which he pulled and cajoled, even in the face of media hostility at times, creating these world class Games in temples of sporting achievement and excellence, dragging them from the rubble of regeneration of an entire region of London, giving birth and life to what is a city of pride and determination within our Capitol. Lord Coe deserves the thanks of our Nation but also of the entire disabled community for the vision he had, which I am sure even he would admit was exceeded beyond all expectations. Thank you Lord Coe you have changed our Nation for the better for ever.
Part of this legacy that Lord Coe but also all those that contributed in any way, and that includes the spectators, is that this Country was suffering from a severe case of depression, economically and from a moral perspective, and these games, especially the Paralympics (yes I admit to being biased) changed this state of State. The Games have lifted the entire Country in my opinion, it is tangible, you can feel that the mood has lifted and that the sky seems blue, the sun shines brighter, the conversations are optimistic. Thank you Lord Coe and your team, you have changed the national depression within the recession to looking at what is possible, what can be achieved regardless of barriers, what will be achieved, we can see the end of the recession and we will race towards the end of it, as the starting gun of the Games has been fired as a rallying call to us all to damn well get on with it and stop wallowing in our own misery!
There are individual elements that come so quickly to mind that I want to share, but there are thousands of them really:
1. Josef Craig aged 15 smashing the world record in his first ever Paralympics to take gold
2. Peacock verses Pistorius was pure adrenaline high
3. Ellie Simmonds was just wonderful, I cannot describe the pure magic she conjures up every time she races
4. David Weir demonstrating pure power and guts
5. 4 x 100m women’s medley swim team fighting back from nowhere to take a hard earned silver
6. Richard Whitehead is just a Hero, enough said
7. The battles and drama of Oscar P and Alan O on a few occasions, beat any drama put on by the BBC
There are just so, so many and I will never forget Natasha Baker’s equestrian gold and the pink motorised scooter she used (loved it!); but not forgetting my favourite moment of pure happiness the like of which I have never seen before from Gold Medallist Sophie Christiansen – that was a defining moment for me in the Games. Sophie is the epitome, the quintessential image of what the Paralympic Games was all about for me – pure unadulterated beaming joy of succeeding and achieving, thank you Sophie, you are wonderful.
The pure quality of role models that was delivered to us via speed of light media linkage into millions of minds throughout the world, the pure speed by which the games were catapulted into our homes, our communities, our society and our world community, it was staggering!!!!!!!! Channel 4’s coverage finally tipped the balance from the games starting as a mode of therapy at the wonderful Stoke Manderville Hospital to being a showcase to the world, joining able and disabled into one form, that of gob-smacking showcase and testament that dreams can come true, determinations and pure hard work, unflinching belief, will get you to the place you want to be and the results you aspire too.
Channel 4 took the principles established at Stoke Manderville and made the Paralympics, well I guess, cool, thrilling, exciting, full of drama, the Paralympics were finally seen for the ability, and gave disability a platform to shine from. I wonder in the light of these games if a side effect may be that hate crimes against the disabled will reduce from its high of 65,000, I think it may, and I pray that it will. I believe this as no more will people hide away because of their disability, the world has seen we are as human as any other people, we may look different but we are human, and our role models are the superhuman achievements delivered hour on hour over the games to change the view of the disabled forever.
Along with this there is another legacy and it only occurred to me on the last day of the games as I turned to my wife asking what am I going to do without the Paralympic Games, where am I going to get my fix from?!? The legacy we should all realise is not just the bricks and buildings, the heroes and heroines we have adopted as our own, no there is a legacy on top of all of these role models to inspire us, the Paralympics changed me from within, the lasting legacy is within me and everyone that became enthralled by the Games. I witness and have been changed by the super-human, super-heroes, super-sensational accomplishments of pure bloody-minded determination that changed me forever. I now wake up and rather than think how difficult this is and that is, and don’t forget the other thing, I now wake up and think about what I need to do to move forward today and support positively my family, my friends and my businesses. I have personally been positively taught that self-pity may have its place but usually that place is in the waste bin, so get moving and be positive. This legacy is within each of us if we let it in, a legacy regardless of disability, barriers or negativity, a legacy we can all afford and carry with us.
Each and every one of us is capable not disabled, I can never repay the legacy of self-change you all have given me – Thank you to everyone.
Your legacy is to make the world see the disabled as able and capable – we will never forget this!