With 14 nations choosing Wales as their base for pre-games training camps, Jon Morgan, Executive Director for Disability Sport Wales, shares with us the behind the scenes work that has gone in to securing these teams as well as ensuring they receive access to the best facilitates Wales has to offer and most importantly building a on a London 2012 legacy.
The Paralympic Games may be happening 158 miles away up the M4 in London but for fourteen of the competing nations all roads have initially led to South Wales.
For the past six years Welsh Government, in partnership with Disability Sport Wales and a range of partners including local authorities, facility and accommodation providers and transportation teams, have led a campaign to bring some of the World’s highest profile Paralympic teams to Wales for their pre-games training camps.
Of course whilst pre-games camps primarily focus on those all important final preparations for the athletes, there are so many other benefits that they bring to Wales. Incoming Teams provide a timely and welcome boost to the local economy – in this case nearly 600 athletes staying for up to three weeks in some cases - that’s an awful lot of ‘bed-nights’, buses and meals! The camps also provide for cultural opportunities through community engagement, an aspect of the 2012 programme that has already gone particularly well with many children, young people and sports clubs already having been inspired by these world class athletes.
Legacy hasn’t been forgotten either. Whilst Welsh Government are hoping for return visits by some of these Teams for future pre-Games camps e.g. International Paralympic World Athletics Championships Lyon 2013 / Commonwealth Games 2014 etc here at Disability Sport Wales we have been building up links with the Australian and New Zealand Paralympic Committees, working together on areas of common interest and development. We are also supporting other nations such as India, Liberia, Tonga, Fiji, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands and are keen to assist them in the further development of Paralympic and disability sport in any way we can.
In just a few days time a six year project will draw to a close when we bid a very fond farewell to our overseas guests. We can be satisfied that Wales has once again lived up to its reputation as a passionate and committed country when it comes to Paralympic sport. We can also feel proud that in our own Welsh way we have made a huge contribution to what will surely be the greatest Paralympic Games of the modern era by hosting 14% of all the athletes that will compete.
The Teams have contributed so much to our own pre-Paralympic party and we thank them for their warmth, friendliness, energy and spirit. They are all worthy ambassadors of their countries and the Paralympic movement.
And as we wave them off to the Games, wishing them the very best of luck, I am sure that not one of them will begrudge us the opportunity to now turn our full attention and support to our own Greatest Team who will no doubt do us all proud come Games time. Go ParalympicsGB!
Follow Jon Morgan on Twitter @JonnyMogs.