Birmingham will be the launch-pad for Britain’s Paralympic Games campaign this year after an announcement today – exactly six months before the Games - that the City’s National Indoor Arena (NIA) will play host to the complete ParalympicsGB team just weeks before it departs for Beijing.
Athletes will collect their official kit; attend a morale and team-building gala dinner and parade through the streets of the city over the weekend of July 26th.
The event was officially launched today with local Paralympians Claire Cashmore and Paul Shaw, ParalympicsGB Chief Executive Phil Lane and Councillor Ray Hassall from Birmingham City Council, who are organising the event in conjunction with ParalympicsGB.
The send-off, which will take place on July 26, 2008 – six weeks before the start of the Games and just week’s before many of the squads fly out to holding camps in Hong Kong and Macau – will also involve a talent ID day and disability sport taster session to encourage others to follow in the footsteps of Britain’s top athletes.
The Birmingham public are being asked to show their support for the ParalympicsGB team by lining the streets of Birmingham for the athlete’s parade, to start at the Jurys Hotel in Birmingham at 6pm before finishing at the NIA when the athletes will go onto the gala dinner.
Phil Lane said: “To be selected to be part of the ParalympicsGB team is an honour for a British athlete competing in disability sport and the pinnacle of their sporting careers and therefore we want to celebrate the team’s selection for the Games.
“Britain’s Paralympic athletes are among the best in the world and it is our goal to send them off as the best prepared team for the Games to ensure they can put in personal best performances to make Britain proud.”
Birmingham City Council is working closely with ParalympicsGB to organise this event and Councillor Ray Hassall, the council’s Cabinet Member for Leisure, Sport and Culture said: “We are looking forward to welcoming the Paralympics GB team to Birmingham. This city has a strong history in disability sport, having staged events at all levels including the Disability World Athletics Championships in 1998 and the World Junior Wheelchair Basketball Championships in 2005, with the senior version of this event set to be staged in Birmingham in 2010, so it is appropriate that Birmingham has been selected to host this GB team celebration ahead of the Beijing Paralympics.”
He added “I would like to encourage the people of Birmingham to come out and support the team as they parade through the city on 26 July to ensure that we give them the send off they truly deserve.”
Kidderminster’s Claire Cashmore, who won bronze at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games said: “To get together before the games is really important for the team morale, even though we may be very close to other athlete’s within our sport and have a great camaraderie it is not very often that we get to know athlete’s from other sports and we are all one big team making up GB.
“It is also necessary to celebrate the success of everyone within the ParalympicsGB team in qualifying for Beijing as well as get a chance to share past experiences.
“I believe Birmingham is a great venue to host the team celebration as there is always a great atmosphere in the city and it is also renowned for its world class sport.”
Britain is traditionally a top nation in Paralympic sport and has consistently been among the top performing nations at the Games. Since the first Games in Rome in 1960, Britain has only ever placed outside the top five in the medal table twice. Top performances in Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004 saw Britain finish second in the medal table at both Games – a success they will be hoping to repeat in Beijing this summer and in London in 2012.