Chris – 1,000 days to go – how are you feeling?
Good! I think it’s really helpful to have these milestones along the journey to 2012, and 1,000 days to go is obviously a key one, and we can take stock, see where we are and things look pretty good really. Whether we’re looking at Games services, or the operations across the Village and the venues and all that kind of stuff - it’s looking really good.
Obviously, stacks and stacks of stuff still to go but taking stock at the moment – yeah, feeling pretty positive.
So what have you looked at so far? What have you found?
I think, if we split the work into two main blocks – that, I think, certainly helped me in my approach – and the first block really is all the things that fall under what I call ‘Games operation’. So that’s anything that it takes to run a fantastic, spectacular Games in 2012.
The kind of issues you could draw out there are the Paralympic Village, transport, the venues – all that kind of stuff – everything which goes into running that fantastic Games.
The second block of work is all around things like communications, the brand, Paralympic broadcast rights… all that sort of stuff which we need to really get involved with to massively promote the Games – not just in 2012, but right from now and right from the day I started.
This is to build up that head of steam behind Paralympics so we deliver an educated, enthused, excited audience who are going to be keen to come to the Stadia in 2012 – or to watch on tv – but really educated… knowing what they’re coming to see, knowing which athletes they want to watch performing.
So really pushing forward on both those areas of work and I guess, from the Games operations point of view, it’s really pushing stuff to ensure that, when the athletes come in 2012, all they have to focus on is doing the best possible sporting performance they can. Because we will have taken care of everything else.
In terms of getting people excited and educating the British public, with 1,000 days to go, what do you think we have to do? What are we going to do? How are we going to make that happen?
1,000 days to go is a really key opportunity for us to think about what we can do to deliver enthusiasm, excitement and engagement every day along that journey, and obviously when the flame gets lit in the Stadium in 2012.
I think, on one level, it’s incredibly simple. It’s about the stories. The stories around the Games. Be that the origins of the Games, be that where particular British and international Paralympians have come from – what their life story is – tying those all together into one key narrative which will take us all along the journey and will become the story of the Paralympics and the story of the Paralympics in the London context. So everybody can feel part of it.
This is truly everyone’s Paralympics and every story that we tell will be an attempt to weave more and more people into this fantastic journey.
For people who haven’t particularly come across the Paralympics before – people know what the Olympics are – is there something different that the Paralympic Games offers – not for athletes but for spectators – or as an experience that you would say ‘go and have a look’?
The Paralympics is very different to the Olympic Games. I believe it offers a unique spectator experience. It’s more relaxed, it’s more fun in many ways… it’s more of a family atmosphere. In that I mean everybody being included and feeling part of the Paralympic family. It’s a phenomenal celebration of elite sport, but in a context where people can feel like they are part of it.
So if you come to the venues in 2012, you will feel part of that experience. You won’t feel that you’re looking on or that you’re a spectator and the sport is going on away from you and there’s an invisible wall between that – you are actually part of that experience.
And what we’re aiming for is that everybody gets that and really gets on board way before 2012. So, if there are people who go to the Games and have a fantastic time leave the stadia going “I never thought it would be that good”, in some ways that’s fantastic. But in another way, we’ve slightly failed there because what I want is for people to be buying tickets because they know it’s going to be good, and when they get there, thinking “I bought a ticket for this particular event, I wanted to watch this event, and it was fantastic.”
Do you have any examples from your own experience of the Games or things that you’ve heard other athletes talk about that they’ve told you – of that kind of thing that you’re talking about in terms of the familial feel of being part of the Paralympics?
The real warmth of the crowd that you feel in the stadia, for sure. I can remember that from all of the competitions I was lucky enough to appear in. But where it really comes across – you could say most sport events have that feeling, and in some ways, they do. But it’s more so at the Paralympics.
But then when you go out into the Olympic Park, around the venues but not actually inside the venues – that’s when you really notice it. Beijing was a key example of that. During the Paralympics, it was a party zone! There was liveliness, fun, engagement, enjoyment, people just chatting, connecting with one another.
I think that’s what the Paralympic potential is – to connect people from all around the world through the medium of elite sport, but having that underpinning, fantastic thread of fun and enjoyment.
So today, what we’re doing to really focus on this 1,000 days milestone, is focusing on the whole concept of time and the fact that there’s still time for people to get involved.
Certainly, we want everybody across the nation – and millions more internationally – to really engage with the Paralympic Games, to get involved as spectators, maybe as volunteers, maybe – potentially – as competitors. Along with UK Sport and Paralympics GB, we’re throwing down a challenge to all young disabled people up and down Britain to say “Why not get involved in sport? And maybe, just maybe, if you’ve got the talent, the determination and the motivation, you could just get a space on the team for 2012”. What a fantastic opportunity.
But about so much more than that… about all the different ways that people can engage with, get involved and really feel that our promise is true. That this is a Paralympic Games for everyone.
There’s 1,000 days to go. Unquestionably, they will go in the blink of an eye. But we’ve got great plans in place, we’ve got great people throughout LOCOG and our partners, stakeholders, sponsors...it’s going to be a fantastic team effort. There’s no way we can achieve our Paralympic ambition alone, but through partnership.