London 2012: Paralympian praises ‘amazing’ Olympic access


A leading Paralympian has praised the “amazing” access and inclusivity of the Olympic Park and other London 2012 venues, after sampling events as a spectator just weeks before he is due to compete in the Paralympics.

David Clarke, who will captain Britain’s blind five-a-side football team, enjoyed athletics at the Olympic Stadium, football at Wembley Stadium, and the modern pentathlon on the final day of the Olympic Games.

He said: “From an inclusivity point-of-view, it worked brilliantly. I think they pretty much nailed it.

“I am 100 per cent confident that had I gone on my own it would have been an absolute breeze.”

He said he was also hugely impressed by the training given to the volunteers – the London 2012 “games makers”.

He said: “In terms of my access into the Olympic Stadium and everything else, people just couldn’t do enough.”

One of the aspects he was most impressed with, he said, was that when he arrived on the accessible bus at one of the modern pentathlon venues, a games maker greeted him with the words: “I am here if you want me to help.”

Clarke said: “It was just really easy, with no fuss. Someone had trained people very, very well.”

He was also impressed that he was offered audio description, which provided extra information – such as the direction athletes were approaching from – not available on the stadium commentary offered to other spectators.

And he said he was “overwhelmed” by the experience of being in the Olympic Park, particularly when he walked past the entrance to the athletes’ village and realised: “Oh my god, that’s going to be me in a few weeks’ time.”

He is “convinced” that the ParalympicsGB team will perform as well as Team GB has done at the Olympics, with the help of the passionate support of British spectators.

And he said this support would be just as important in events which require spectators to be silent during play, such as blind football, because the crowd’s reaction as the players walk out onto the pitch, during time-outs, and before penalties and corners, will be vital in boosting his team’s performance, just as it was for Team GB athletes during Olympic events such as show-jumping and gymnastics.

Clarke said the public’s response to the Paralympics had been “amazing”, with events at the main Olympic Park set to be sold out, partly due to the success of the Olympics.

He said: “I am very proud of the fact that that has happened, and ultimately very proud of the people who have organised it. They have done a most unbelievable job.”

He added: “I have quite often played to a few hundred people over the last 18 years, so to be stepping out to three-and-a-half thousand people will be remarkable. It is also a really tight space, which will make it even more gladiatorial.”

He said training was going “very well”, with the five-a-side squad preparing to head to Bath for its final preparations for the London 2012 tournament, but he added: “I am just looking forward to getting on with it.

“I think we are going to have a great time, but when you are in the games your experience is defined by your performance. We have the ability to beat every team in our group. Time will tell if we do.”

The ParalympicsGB five-a-side team starts its campaign against Spain at 3.30pm on Friday 31 August, with the medal matches on 8 September.