Royal Mail has agreed to produce individual stamps to mark every gold medal won by British athletes during the London 2012 Paralympics, following pressure from leading Paralympians and campaigners.
It had faced criticism last week when it emerged that it was intending to bring out just six stamps to mark the achievements of all the ParalympicsGB gold-medallists, even though it had produced individual stamps to celebrate every one of Team GB’s 29 Olympic gold medals.
It blamed “logistical” problems, claiming far more gold medals were expected from Britain’s Paralympians than its Olympians, and over a shorter time period.
But this week Royal Mail announced that it was “pulling out all the stops” to produce individual stamps for every British Paralympic gold medal.
Because it expects as many as 60 gold medals over the 11 days of the games, Royal Mail pledged to have the stamps on sale at 518 post offices across the UK within five working days of each victory, before rolling them out eventually to another 5,000 branches.
Rower Naomi Riches, who last week said individual stamps would be another step towards giving Paralympic athletes “as much credit for their achievements as Olympic athletes”, praised Royal Mail’s about-turn, which she said would make a win “even more special” and help raise the profile of Paralympic sport.
She had previously suggested to Royal Mail that athletes would be happy to “wait a little longer” for individual stamps.
But Riches said it was now important to focus on “what we need to do in the next two weeks to put ourselves in the best position to win that gold so that we can sit on the start line and know that we have done all we can and can put in our best performance”.
Royal Mail had already announced that it would paint an extra post-box gold in the home town of every British Paralympic gold medallist – just as it has done with the Olympics – and set up a £200,000 prize fund to be split between all gold medal-winners, which is believed to be a similar amount to its Olympic fund.
Julie Newman, acting chair of the UK Disabled People’s Council, who was critical of the original decision not to produce individual stamps for Paralympians, praised the “very impressive” part that Riches had played in persuading Royal Mail to change its mind.
She said it was important that Paralympic athletes themselves had played a part in over-turning the decision, because “they are the role models, the ones who carry the legacy and who in 20 years’ time are going to be talking about the fact that their faces were on the stamps, inspiring the next generation”.
She said the amount of public support for the idea of individual stamps had been “overwhelming”.
Mish Tullar, Royal Mail’s director of media relations, said: “Following the success of our Olympics gold medal stamps and with clear public demand for individual Paralympic gold medal stamps, and from our Paralympians themselves, we’re pulling out all the stops to deliver these too.”
Andrew Hammond, managing director of Royal Mail Stamps, said the Paralympics gold medal stamps programme would be “the greatest logistical challenge in stamps production ever undertaken by any postal administration”.
The British Paralympic Association, which had welcomed Royal Mail’s original plans for just six stamps, said it was “delighted that the offer has been increased”.