Some of Britain’s top Paralympians will be appearing at a new festival of sport that aims to build on the legacy of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and unearth future medal-winners.
The first ParalympicsGB Sports Fest will take place next month in Surrey, and will showcase the 22 summer and three winter Paralympic sports, with other such events planned to take place across the UK in 2013.
Details were announced as the English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS) published the results of an online survey which suggested that the London 2012 Paralympic Games had had a positive impact on many non-disabled people’s perceptions of disabled people.
More than two-fifths of more than 400 non-disabled people who took part in the survey said they had changed their opinions of disabled people after watching the games.
Seven out of 10 people surveyed said that watching the Paralympics had inspired them to consider attending a disability sports event as a spectator, while eight out of 10 of the disabled people surveyed said they were now considering taking part in more sport or exercise.
But EFDS pointed out that a similar survey by the Sports and Recreation Alliance last month found nine out of 10 of those questioned had noticed no change in the number of disabled people joining their club.
Given five possible “messages” from the games by EFDS, non-disabled people were slightly more likely than disabled people to say that Paralympians were “inspirational role models”.
But disabled people were more than twice as likely as non-disabled people to conclude that there had been “a great atmosphere but the feeling will not last forever”.
The ParalympicsGB Sports Fest will aim to build on the impact of London 2012, with disabled people able to try out some of the sports and meet some of the medal-winning stars of London 2012.
Those appearing will include teenage world record-holder Jonnie Peacock, who won gold in the T44 100 metres at London 2012 by beating the sprinting might of the USA and defending champion Oscar Pistorius.
Peacock was first spotted by the British Paralympic Association (BPA) in 2008 at a talent identification day.
He said: “I am a walking example of how sport can change your life for the better. Sport has totally shaped the person I am today.
“I am not saying that everyone can go on and win a Paralympic medal, but the process of getting more active or taking up a sport at a local club can definitely have a big impact on your life.”
Sports on show at Sports Fest will include para-triathlon and para-canoeing, which will both be included in the Paralympics for the first time in Rio in 2016.
Tim Hollingsworth, the BPA’s chief executive, said: “The festival is about building on the momentum of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
“We recognise that the hard work of our athletes this summer has inspired disabled and non-disabled people alike, but we also know that for many, sport isn’t just about winning medals.
“This is not just about seeing who is out there who could one day pull on a ParalympicsGB vest, this is about giving people the chance to see what is out there that works for them.
“For some it might be coaching, officiating or volunteering, for others just the joy of taking part.”
The ParalympicsGB Sports Fest, which is free to attend, will be held at the Surrey Sports Park in Guildford on Monday 3 December and Tuesday 4 December.