Much has been said about the impact of the London 2012 Parlympic Games and whether the fantastic spectacle last year will leave a lasting legacy or whether the bubble has already burst.
Well I am glad to say that from a Leeds perspective we are still very much on a high, with record numbers of attendance on programmes by disabled people, disability sport club numbers across the city increasing and general interest in all forms of disability sport at an unprecedented level.
This was clearly evident on Sunday 8th September, when the first “Leeds 2 Rio- disability sport day” was held. Taking place across the whole site at the John Charles Centre for Sport, this event saw 13 Paralympic and disability sports taking place delivered by all the key providers in the city. A free sports day aimed at disabled people and their friends and families, up to 200 people attended the day and all seemed to have a fantastic time trying out the vast range of disability sports on offer.
The event was linked to the British Paralympic Associations “National Paralympic Day” and was our own version of celebrating not just a year on from London 2012, but also exactly three years to go until the start of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
Wheelchair tennis, powerchair football, blind football, adapted cycling, golf, wheelchair basketball, Boccia, New Age Kurling, visually impaired tennis, table tennis, athletics and goalball were all on offer and people of all ages, all abilities and all disabilities took part. Future Paralympic stars such as Georgina Oliver, a Leeds wheelchair racer, were on hand to try out some of the activities. As was Ed Holt, a wheelchair tennis player who trains at Leeds Met University, who demonstrated some of his skills and helped coached some of the groups.
Alongside the come and try sessions was a special wheelchair rugby league festival, which featured teams from across the country as well as an exhibition game between England and Ireland. Leeds Rugby also entered a select team containing Leeds Rhinos rugby league stars of the past and present.
The overall Leeds 2 Rio- disability sport day was organised by Leeds City Council and the Leeds Disability Sport Youth Panel, a group of young disabled and non-disabled people who all have an interest in developing disability sport and have been together for the last three years, delivering legacy programmes in Leeds in the build up to and post the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Our disability sport programmes in Leeds began many years before the London 2012 games, and will continue for many years afterwards. For us it is not just important to harness the excitement of a home Paralympic Games, but also to use the other top quality mainstream and disability sport events that take place across the year as a tool to engage disabled people, whether that is taking the first steps to becoming active, attending regularly or progressing to an elite level.
For more information on disability sport opportunities in Leeds go to: www.leeds.gov.uk/disabilitysport
Ross Bibby, Disability Sport Officer