Disabled people sidelined as Sainsbury’s picks Paralympic torchbearers


Concerns have been raised about how members of the public are being chosen to take part in the Paralympic torch relay – a major event in the lead-up to this summer’s London 2012 games.

LOCOG, London 2012’s organising committee, is preparing to announce the nominees who have been chosen to carry the Paralympic torch from Stoke Mandeville to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, east London, over 24 hours from 28 to 29 August.

In all, 580 disabled and non-disabled “torchbearers” will carry the flame in teams of five, with each team covering about half a mile.

Three London 2012 sponsors – Sainsbury’s, Lloyds TSB and BT – have each chosen about 140 people to take part in the relay from thousands of public nominations, with the other 150 or so to be selected by the International Paralympic Committee, LOCOG, the British Paralympic Association and other London 2012 sponsors.

Each of the three main relay sponsors has chosen a different way to select its torchbearers, with BT using one of Britain’s greatest Paralympians, Lee Pearson, to judge nominations.

But Disability News Service has discovered that one of the sponsors – Sainsbury’s – is using four non-disabled employees to pick its torchbearers.

Julie Newman, acting chair of the UK Disabled People’s Council, said Sainsbury’s decision made a mockery of disabled people’s often-repeated demand: “Nothing about us without us.”

She added: “It is so patronising. It is disrespectful and it discredits them rather than us.”

Dr Ju Gosling, co-chair of Regard, the lesbian gay bisexual and transgender disabled people’s organisation, added: “It seems like the whole way the Paralympics are shaping up.

“Ultimately, so much is happening without us. To my mind this just devalues everything the Paralympics stands for.”

A Sainsbury’s spokesman said: “The selection was carried out by four colleagues from different teams within Sainsbury’s.

“While none of the members of the panel have a disability, we did confirm our selections with both the British Paralympic Association and LOCOG for suitability purposes.”

No-one at LOCOG was available to comment.

26 April 2012

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