The Paralympics are coming...

Emma Boggis, Chief Executive of the Sport and Recreation Alliance and Non-Executive Director of the British Paralympic Association, blogs about her excitement ahead of the opening ceremony for the Paralympic Games in Rio.

After the drama, the excitement, the emotions and the medals that TeamGB produced in Rio, I hope you have recovered and are ready to support ParalympicsGB as the Paralympics get underway.

As well as my role at the Alliance, I am hugely proud to be associated with ParalympicsGB as a Non-Executive Director – having joined the Board in 2013 - part of my personal legacy from London 2012.

So for me as a Board member, after discussing and agreeing our strategy and approach for Rio at various committees and Board meetings over the last three years, the time is now here. Our vision at the BPA is “through sport inspire a better world for disabled people” and our number one strategic priority is about delivering the best prepared teams for the Games to deliver those inspirational moments for people to draw upon back home. So this is it – crunch time – our time to deliver!

Consequently the excitement and activity has been building this year and reached a whole new level over the last few weeks and days as the ParalympicsGB core team arrived in Brazil. There are now literally hundreds of team members in Brazil, either at the training camp in Belo Horizonte, or already in place in the Village. We are sending our largest team to an away games with 264 athletes and guides and it is a team we judge to be our most competitive ever – which is probably just as well as UK Sport set a target in July for us to be more successful in Rio than in London – so for ParalympicsGB the magic medal number is 121!

This past weekend there was some activity taking place closer to home to truly get people engaged and excited about the feast of sporting activity to come.

Firstly on Friday night Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and Kelly Gallagher lit the flame at the heritage flame celebration at Stoke Mandeville, which now takes place in advance of every summer and winter Games – another legacy from London 2012, to recognise the UK and Stoke Mandeville in particular as the home of the Paralympic Movement.

Saturday saw the celebrations continue with National Paralympic Day taking place in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park alongside the Liberty Arts Festival for Deaf and Disabled Artists. Over the last three years, National Paralympic Day has grown to such an extent that this year a number of  National Paralympic Carnivals are taking place across the UK in the run up to the start of the Games. Each event is an opportunity for people to have a look – and hopefully a go – at Paralympic sports and to promote what outlets are available for disabled people to engage in sport and physical activity. Such events provide important, practical ways for people to get involved with the Alliance’s #TryYourKitOn campaign which has been running throughout the summer and will continue until the end of September.

Paralympic Carnival ()

As we saw with the launch of the EFDS media research last week, despite the notable improvement in reporting since London 2012, disabled and non-disabled people want to see more disability sport media coverage on a regular basis and given parity with non-disabled sport. Rio 2016 will provide a fantastic platform for this. Following their great coverage of London 2012 Channel Four and BBC Radio are again the UK Broadcasters for the Games. Many of you will have already seen the promos and trailers that they have both produced to add to the excitement.

The Paralympic Games provide unique opportunities to demonstrate the passion, spirit and skill that runs through all disability sports and as such should be showcased to as wide an audience as possible. The idea being that disabled people watching the games feel emboldened to take part in activities themselves. That’s why the “Yes I Can” advertisements are so inspiring, we want everybody to feel that they can participate in sport and achieve in life.

As a Board we are confident that the team behind the athletes are expertly placed, which gives our athletes the very best chance to deliver the world class performances we know they are capable of and will need to produce to secure medals in Rio. I for one will be following from afar and look forward to celebrating success in the coming days.