A minister has revealed which individuals and organisations were given free government tickets to the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympics.
Maria Miller, the Conservative culture secretary and former minister for disabled people, told MPs that decisions on who to invite to the Paralympics and Olympics opening and closing ceremonies – and to London 2012 sporting events – were based on “encouraging growth, health and sports participation, and community engagement and volunteering”.
In all, the government bought 8,641 tickets for London 2012, at a cost of £1,174,421.
Most of the tickets given to prominent disabled people, disabled people’s organisations and disability charities were for the Paralympics opening ceremony – a critically-praised celebration of human rights, which featured Stephen Hawking, a giant sculpture of Alison Lapper Pregnant, zip wires and flying wheelchairs – rather than the closing ceremony or sporting events.
So far, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has been unable to clarify exactly how the government chose which disabled people and organisations were given the tickets.
The bosses of disability charities given pairs of £1,500 tickets for the opening ceremony included Richard Hawkes, from Scope, Mark Goldring, from Mencap, Clare Pelham, from Leonard Cheshire Disability, Patricia Osborne, from the Brittle Bone Society, Kevin Carey, chair of RNIB, and David Henry, a trustee and former chair of Mind.
Among the disabled people’s organisations recognised for their work with pairs of £1,500 tickets were Disability Wales, Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living, ecdp (formerly Essex Coalition of Disabled People), Southampton Centre for Independent Living, and Disability Rights UK.
Four disabled peers – who have all spent years campaigning for disability rights – were also given tickets: the crossbench peer Lord Low (two tickets at £1,500), who was representing RNIB, the Labour peer Baroness Wilkins (a single £20.12 ticket) and the Liberal Democrat Baroness Thomas (£20.12), both representing the all party parliamentary disability group, and the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Addington (two tickets at £1,500).
There were also six tickets (each at £1,500) for representatives of Lord [Jack] Ashley, one of the great parliamentary campaigners on disability issues, who had died two months earlier.
And there were two tickets for Ian Macrae, editor of Disability Now, previously an influential magazine on disability issues and now a website.
Other disabled people who received tickets included Mike Smith (£20.12), at the time the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s disability commissioner; hate crime campaigners Stephen Brookes (two tickets at £1,500) and Simon Green (£20.12); twins Judith and Laura Merry (£20.12 each), both prominent in the Trailblazers network of young disabled campaigners; Vidar Hjardeng (two tickets at £1,500), an RNIB trustee; and 11-time Paralympic gold medal-winning swimmer David Roberts (two tickets at £1,500).
24 January 2013