Published on 30 Sep 2011 Sections

Campaigners threaten Paralympics boycott

Campaigners are threatening a boycott of next year’s Paralympic Games because of links between the International Paralympic Committee and a company that tests disabled people’s “fitness to work”

Unless you’re disabled, you may not have heard of Atos Healthcare. They are the french IT firm assessing disabled people’s fitness to work on behalf of the Government.

But – if some disabled campaigners have anything to do with it – by next summer, you will know all about the company. They’re threatening a boycott of the Paralympic Games.

They’re angry that Atos Healthcare’s parent company, Atos, is a Worldwide Olympic partner of London 2012, and that includes the Paralympics.

The campaigners told Channel 4 News the company is running a flawed process to assess disabled people’s rights to benefits and is therefore an inappropriate sponsor of the Paralympic Games.

That’s denied by Atos Healthcare who told Channel 4 News it was not just proud of the work carried out by their staff to “conduct objective assessments” but also “proud of its role as the Worldwide IT Partner for the Paralympic Games and committed to delivering the technology that will help ensure a successful Games for athletes and spectators”.

Yet for campaigners, the last straw is the appointment this month of former Atos chief executive – Bernard Bourigeaud – to the board of the International Paralympic Committee.

The IPC said M Bourigeaud …”left Atos in September 2007 and is a long-time supporter of the Paralympic Movement offering some expert advice and guidance. His knowledge and experience will be of great benefit to us going forward.”

So will this campaign have an impact? One Paralympic insider told Channel 4 News tonight that concern amongst disabled campaigners appeared to begrowing and that a sizeable number had been in contact to voice their feelings.