The only London 2012 venue built solely for the Paralympics has been completed, just as organisers marked 200 days to go until the games begin.
The 10,500-capacity Eton Manor, at the northern end of the Olympic Park, will host wheelchair tennis on its distinctive blue courts.
During the Olympics and Paralympics, Eton Manor will also provide temporary training facilities for three aquatic sports, through three Olympic-size swimming pools, a synchronised swimming pool and a water polo pool.
Eton Manor has been built on the site of an old sports club, and after the Paralympics – but probably not until 2014 – it will become a new tennis and hockey centre run by Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, with four indoor and six outdoor tennis courts, and five-a-side football pitches.
The new centre will be a regional centre of excellence for wheelchair tennis in London and the south-east, and is likely to feature a programme to identify the next generation of talented disabled tennis players.
Peter Norfolk, Britain’s world number one ranked wheelchair tennis player in the “quad” category, told Disability News Service that he hoped to be playing at the test event at Eton Manor in May to try out the new facilities.
He said: “I am hoping that the Eton Manor facilities are going to have a lasting legacy and we will have future wheelchair tennis tournaments there, like Sydney does with its Olympic centre.”
Having won both singles and doubles titles at last month’s Australian Open, despite returning from a long injury lay-off, Norfolk said 2012 was “looking good”, although Paralympics qualification was not until the end of May.
The British Paralympic Association (BPA) marked the 200-days-to-go milestone on 11 February by announcing that every retired athlete who has represented Britain at the Paralympics would be given two free tickets to this year’s games.
Margaret Maughan, the first Briton to win a gold medal at the first Paralympics in 1960, said: “I am very proud to be a Paralympian and I hope that in London I will join many other supporters in cheering on the British team.”
Tim Hollingsworth, BPA’s chief executive, said: “These athletes represented our nation and this offer goes some way towards celebrating their contribution to the history of the British Paralympic team.
“The BPA was only formed in 1989, meaning that our formal records don’t go back to the beginning of the Paralympic movement. So we are looking forward to making contact with all British Paralympians through this offer and welcoming them to London.”
Any retired Paralympians interested in the offer should visit the BPA’s Paralympians’ Club website and register as a member, or call the BPA on 020 7842 5789.
The English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS) also celebrated the 200-day milestone and said it hoped to use the run-up to London 2012 to boost disabled people’s participation in sport and physical activity, with only seven per cent of disabled people currently taking part in regular activity.
Sarah Marl, EFDS’s marketing and communications manager, said: “Over the next 200 days, we will continue to promote the importance of equality in sport and ensure we not only make the 2012 Paralympics a success for Britain, but create a sustainable legacy for everyone.”