COMMENT: Weir and Co banish thoughts of LOCOG


After discovering that LOCOG has refused – yes, refused – to provide information to visitors to the Olympic Park in accessible formats, I needed some top-notch, edge-of-the-seat sporting action to help lift my jaw off the floor.

And to remind me that these Paralympics should not be about the access failures of the organising committee, but the sight and sound of talented disabled athletes performing in front of tens of thousands of screaming fans.

And if you are looking for screaming fans and edge-of-the-seat sporting action, where better to head than the Olympic Stadium, even if the schedule and information about the various classifications were not available in Braille or easy-read versions.

The quality of the action on offer is easy to prove – you only have to look around the media seats to see some of the best-known names in sports writing, and broadcasting, here to cover the sport, or at least mostly the sport.

The evening did not disappoint.

There was Aled Davies winning his second throwing gold medal and having it presented by the royal bride formerly known as Kate Middleton.

If that was not enough, there was the shock of Oscar Pistorius losing in the final of the 200m to the Brazilian Alan Fonteles Cardoso Oliveira, and then sparking a torrent of media headlines after complaining about the length of his rival’s running blades.

And there was more: the wonderfully talented sprinter Libby Clegg winning silver in the 100m, just an hour after her younger brother James had won swimming bronze in the 100m butterfly.

And then to round it all off, a masterly display by GB’s Paralympic marketing dream David Weir to win gold in the first of his four events, the 5,000m, a performance that rocked the stadium to its concrete foundations, assuming that is that those foundations were not filled instead with unwanted LOCOG Braille printers.

Weir’s win was nearly enough to bring Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson to tears. She has known Weir, she said after giving him a congratulatory hug in the media interview zone, since he was seven years old.

Although not counting anything egg-laying and feathery yet, she was still purring quietly about the performance of the GB athletics squad, which has already passed its miserly haul of two athletics gold medals in Beijing.

“It was really miserable in Beijing,” she said, remembering her commentating stint for the BBC four years ago. ”It just got more and more depressing every single day sitting there.

“You can’t say it’s all brilliant and marvellous, didn’t they do well, because that’s not what you say about elite athletes… The turnaround in the last four years has been so good.”

Aside from Weir’s masterful victory, she seems most pleased about the parity she believes she has seen between the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. “I wanted the London Paralympics to be the same as the Olympics,” she said.

“I wanted the athletes to be treated the same. In the past we have felt like second-class citizens, but the athletes hopefully do not feel that.”

Earlier in the afternoon, in another sporting display designed to banish memories of LOCOG discrimination – at least for a while – there was a gritty, well-deserved point gained by the GB five-a-side (blind) football team, their first point against Argentina in 16 years of trying.

After Spain had beaten Iran earlier in the afternoon, it was a game GB could not afford to lose, but GB now know they will have to win their final game tomorrow (Tuesday) to have a chance of progressing to the semi-finals, after drawing their first two games.

David Clarke, the GB captain, said afterwards: “I cannot tell you how much the guys want to get to the semi-final. We are not full-time professionals but we act like it.”

He had spent a couple of hours with his family on the Olympic Park on Saturday, as he had done during the Olympics. And he mirrored the comments of Baroness G-T. “It’s precisely the same [as the Olympics]: the enthusiasm, the support. It really is the parallel Olympics.

“To come back into the Olympic Park and for it to be exactly the same amount of people, atmosphere and support, everything was the same as it was during the Olympics, which is just incredible.”

3 September 2012