Following the Paralympics Opening Ceremony last night, BPA director of comms and marketing Jane Jones has predicted that ‘people will see past disability to see ability and connect with the athletes’.
‘We expect that people might buy a ticket because they are curious or want to see inside the venues, but we are confident that once they are in they will be absolutely hooked, and they will see athletes, not Paralympians,’ she said.
The opening ceremony was themed around enlightenment and featured scenes such as a re-enactment of the apple falling in Isaac Newton's Lincolnshire garden, Stephen Hawking's celebration of the Higgs particle and actor Sir Ian McKellen appearing as Shakespeare’s Prospero.
The opening ceremony was largely well-received by the media, with The Times dubbing the event 'good inspirational stuff'.
A stated aim of the BPA, which is responsible for organising participation of UK athletes, is to encourage people to consider Paralympians’ achievements over their disability.
One misconception the BPA is keen to redress is that the standards of competition are not as high as the Olympics.
‘People still think it is easy to become a Paralympian, and it is not,' said Jones. 'The perception is that if you are fit solider and get injured it would be easy to get into the Paralympic team. But it is fiercely competitive - only two per cent of the team are people who have been injured from serving in the military.'
Jones added that the BPA is also keen to highlight the power of sport to help people cope if they become disabled.
She said: ‘People can acquire their disability at any time and one of the things we are keen to promote is that sport can be transformational at any point in your life. There are sports you can carry on competing in for a long time – like shooter Di Coates, who is taking part in her 8th Olympics aged 58.’