Why are the Paralympic Games important?
The Paralympic Games are not only an integral part of the worldwide sporting calendar, but they also play an important role in inspiring others to think differently about disability as the largest event worldwide for driving social change.
Since 1968 New Zealand Paralympic Teams have stunned supporters and competing nations with their determination, heart, and courage and ultimately, their success. 209 Paralympians have contributed to New Zealand Paralympic Teams success so far by representing Kiwis with pride and dignity and bringing home a staggering 221 medals across 24 Paralympic Games.
Our Paralympians are inspiring future generations; however, they are also part of a wider movement that is helping to transform the lives of others, helping to change attitudes towards disabled people.
The London 2012 legacy
One of the most successful Olympic and Paralympic Games were held in London in 2012. The London organising committee set up some very clear goals from the start; they wanted the fact that Great Britain were hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games to act as a catalyst to increase grassroots participation in sport, particularly by young people, exploit the opportunities for economic growth offered by hosting the Games, promote community engagement and achieve participation across all groups in society through the Games.
In a 2018 short film published by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and United Nations Human Rights Office, the legacy of the London 2012 Paralympic Games was showcased.
The short film featured eight-time Paralympic equestrian champion Sophie Christiansen OBE, broadcaster and TV producer Andy Stevenson, and former London 2012 Head of Diversity and Inclusion Stephen Frost.
Transforming Lives Makes Sense for Everyone
The film, part of the “Transforming Lives Makes Sense for Everyone” campaign, focuses on some of the employment challenges faced by disabled people ahead of London 2012 and highlights what impact the Paralympic Games had on changing attitudes and creating employment opportunities.
After London 2012, research found that one in three people changed their attitudes towards disabled people with disabilities as a result of the Paralympic Games. More recently, figures from the Office of National Statistics show that 3.85 million disabled people are now in employment in Great Britain, nearly one million more than five years ago.
“For anyone with a disability in this country, the London 2012 Paralympics were mind-blowing,” said Stevenson who worked as a BBC Radio 5 Live reporter during London 2012. “It did make a difference in how disability is perceived by people who probably had never encountered disability before those Games.”
Catalyst for change
At London 2012, Christiansen won three golds medals, bringing her career tally to eight Paralympic titles. She witnessed first-hand the impact the Paralympics had on transforming the attitudes of British society and employers.
“The Paralympics in London were the first time that the general public really saw what disabled athletes could do,” said the four-time Paralympian who took up a role as an analyst in the technology division of investment bank Goldman Sachs soon after the Games.
“If people can see me excel in my work, they will be inspired to do the same. I always think my disability has enabled me to think in different ways and employers greatly value that,” she added.
Sport for all in New Zealand
Whilst we may not have hosted an Olympic or Paralympic Games here in New Zealand, the impact of the Games can be felt throughout the country. Sport New Zealand’s Disability Plan guides their commitment to working in partnership, investing, and building a system-wide capability to deliver better outcomes for disabled people here in New Zealand.
Sport NZ knows from its Active NZ data that disabled young people are less likely to participate in a range of sports and activities, particularly play related activities such as using playgrounds and scootering. Disabled adults spend 16% less time participating in any given week than non-disabled adults.
Developed following a Disability review in 2018 and in consultation with key partners, disability advocate groups and individuals, the Disability Plan aims to improve the range and quality of physical activity on offer for disabled tamariki and rangatahi to ensure they have the opportunity to be active.
With the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games only four months away, more and more New Zealand Para athletes will have the opportunity to inspire people all over New Zealand with their performances at the Games.
The countdown has now begun for many Para athletes and the first team announcements were made in early April, with five Para athletes confirmed to the team for Tokyo 2020. You can follow the progress of these athletes as well as keeping up to date with all future team announcements by bookmarking the Tokyo 2020 page or following Paralympics New Zealand across our social media platforms which you will find at the top of the page.