Around 6,000 disabled people have volunteered to help at London 2012. Britain’s most successful Paralympian says it represents a huge change in attitudes from when she first started to compete.
London 2012 organisers have dubbed them the Games Makers: the volunteers who will make the Olympics and Paralympics a reality.
Seventy thousand are needed to carry out tasks – from sewing sequins for the opening and closing ceremonies to welcoming athletes to their temporary homes.
London 2012 is less than two years away. The deadline for applying to volunteer is just a few hours away – organisers will stop taking applications at midnight on Wednesday 27 October.
At the last count more than 100,000 people had put themselves forward including 6,000 disabled people.
Britain’s most successful Paralympian, Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, says the number of disabled applicants is very encouraging: “It just shows how comfortable they are with the process and how much they want to contribute, because we want to show the whole world that London is a very diverse city.
London will put the Paralympics on a whole new level. Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson
“Everybody, it doesn’t matter who you are, has something to contribute towards being a volunteer in London 2012.”
Some previous Paralympic Games have been under-represented in terms of volunteers.
Out of the 70,000 volunteers required for the 2012 Games overall around 23,000 will work at the Paralympics.
Dame Tanni is confident there won’t be a shortage of people putting themselves forward this time: “I think what’s happened in the past is that the Paralympics has been something that’s come after the Olympic Games.
“With London 2012 it’s always been an Olympics and a Paralympics alongside each other and that’s why the volunteering programme has been run together…and that’s really exciting because London will put the Paralympics on a whole new level, not just in terms of athletic performance but also in terms of the way the Games are organised and run.
“What we want really is for people to volunteer for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games…it’s really important we get the right number of volunteers for the Paralympic Games to make sure they run smoothly.”
We are thrilled with the response we’ve had so far from people. Lord Coe
Speaking earlier this month, Lord (Sebastian) Coe, Chair of the London 2012 Organising Committee said: “We are thrilled with the response we’ve had so far from people and would like to thank everyone who has already filled in their application form and pledged to lend their time to the greatest show on earth.
“The London 2012 Games simply could not happen without volunteers. Whenever I have spoken to previous volunteers, they’ve all said what a fantastic experience it was.”
Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson has won 11 Paralympic gold medals, making her Britain’s most successful Paralympian to date.
She told Channel 4 News that the profile of the Paralympics had risen remarkably over the years: “There’s been a huge change in attitudes. My first Games was 1988 and nobody really knew the term Paralympics – it was the first time it was used.
“Seoul was interesting, Barcelona pushed it on, but by the time we got to Beijing in 2008 it had changed out of proportion in terms of how hard the athletes were training, the level of sponsorship…But 2012 will set the bar higher than it’s ever been before. I’m very excited about that because it will be a lot for any other city which hosts a Paralympic Games to live up to because London is going to be amazing.”
For more on the Paralympics go to http://paralympics.channel4.com/