London 2012: LOCOG defends lack of disabled talent in closing ceremony


The organisers of London 2012 have been heavily criticised after admitting that only 37 of the 1,100 volunteers who performed in the Paralympic Games closing ceremony were disabled people.

This proportion of 3.4 per cent is slightly higher than the 2.1 per cent of volunteers who described themselves as disabled people and took part in the opening ceremony.

The London 2012 organising committee LOCOG also admitted that none of the seven-strong artistic team which produced and directed the closing ceremony, nor any of the members of the three “principal” acts – Coldplay, Jay-Z and Rihanna – were disabled.

Somewhere between 61 and 85 of the 200-strong professional cast were disabled performers.

Much of the closing ceremony on 9 September was taken up with a long set by Coldplay, who played more than a dozen songs, with occasional appearances by disabled performers, such as Mat Fraser, the British Paraorchestra, members of CanDoCo, and the Chickenshed graduate Lissa Hermans.

LOCOG had already admitted that only 68 of the 3,250 volunteers who took part in the opening ceremony on 29 August were disabled, although the event itself – led by two disabled co-directors – was widely-praised, particularly for the performances of its 73 professional Deaf and disabled performers.

Julie Newman, acting chair of the UK Disabled People’s Council, said the closing ceremony had been “a tremendous missed opportunity”, despite the welcome appearance of talented disabled performers such as the members of the British Paraorchestra.

She particularly pointed to young disabled people in groups across the country who could have taken part as volunteers, which would have provided a “legacy for them to tell their children about in 20 or 30 years”.

She said that to have Coldplay leading the ceremony was “ridiculous” and showed a “lack of appreciation for disability arts that is reflected in the rapid erosion of the range of disability arts organisations and infrastructure over the last four years”.

She said: “I think this legacy has been stolen, particularly from young people, and it makes me very sad.”

A LOCOG spokesman said: “Every section of the ceremony featured a lead performer with disability in what was a fantastic showcase of the quality of disabled artists and sportspeople.

“In the ceremony, artistic director Kim Gavin showcased the skills and talents of disabled people on a world stage, and gave the performers the opportunity to be appreciated as great artists.”

He added: “The performances by Lissa Hermans, who sang the national anthem, Rory Mackenzie’s [from Help for Heroes]address to the crowd, Kitty Castledine driving the steamship, Lyndsay Care’s aerial performance, Viktoria Modesta as the Snow Queen, Lyndsay Adams as the motorcycle aerialist, Mat Fraser who played the drums with Coldplay, The British Paraorchestra, CanDoCo and of course the incredibly moving raising of the Union flag by Help for Heroes were a clear demonstration to the world of what disabled people can do, and have won rave reviews from global media outlets.”

27 September 2012


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