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Page last updated at 18:29 GMT, Friday, 28 August 2009 19:29 UK

Team GB must use 2012 advantage

Ellie Simmonds
Paralympic swimming champion Ellie Simmonds at the Aquatic Centre site

Dame Tanni Grey Thompson has told the BBC that British competitors should make the most of home advantage at the 2012 Paralympics.

Saturday marks the three-year point to the start of the London Paralympics on 29 August 2012 and Grey Thompson is excited by the challenges it brings.

"2012 provides an amazing focus for athletes," she told BBC Sport.

"Having a games on home soil is the biggest boost we could ever hope for so we are hoping for great things."

The Games will utilise many of the Olympic venues which are currently being built in east London, including the main Olympic Stadium, the Aquatic Centre and the Velodrome while Eton Manor, in the north of the Olympic Park, which will host the wheelchair tennis events, will be a brand new facility.

Organisers have promised that the Games will be the most compact Games ever with around half of the sports taking place in the Olympic Park with the majority of the remainder in the River Zone which includes North Greenwich Arena 1, Greenwich Park, ExCel and the Royal Artillery Barracks.

The Olympic Stadium in Stratford
OLYMPIC PARK: Athletics, swimming, wheelchair basketball, track cycling, wheelchair rugby, tennis, archery, football (five-a-side and seven-a-side), goalball
NORTH GREENWICH ARENA 1: Wheelchair basketball
NORTH GREENWICH ARENA 2: Sitting volleyball
EXCEL: Boccia, powerlifting, table tennis, judo, wheelchair fencing
REGENT'S PARK: Road cycling

The sports being held outside the two zones include rowing at Eton Dorney, sailing at Weymouth and Portland and road cycling in central London.

Great Britain finished second to China in the medal table in Beijing, winning 102 medals, including 42 golds, and the team are targeting second again in the standings on home soil.

The 2012 Games will feature 20 sports over 11 days of competition with around 4,200 athletes from 160 countries taking part.

Grey Thompson, who won 11 Paralympic gold medals during her career, adds that it is also important for the Games to inspire greater participation.

"There are challenges for sport all over the country. If we can't use the games to get youngsters involved now then it is an opportunity missed," she admitted.

"Although I made my Paralympic debut in 1988, Barcelona was a real watershed because it was the first time people were interested in the Games and the first time we had media coverage.

"By Beijing last year we had crowds of 90,000 watching the athletic events in the Birds Nest and we are excited with the opportunity to put the Paralympics on the sporting map.

"We invented the Paralympics in Britain and 2012 is a real homecoming."

The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic organising committee (Locog) has also appointed former Paralympic swimmer Chris Holmes as its director of Paralympic Integration and he will have responsibility for the sport at all levels.

Holmes, who won nine swimming golds, including six at the Barcelona Games, says that his main roles are to educate audiences so they understand and enjoy Paralympic sport and to ensure that every disabled child in the UK has the chance to take part in sport.

But raising the profile of Paralympians such as swimmers Ellie Simmonds and Heather Frederiksen, cyclists Darren Kenny and Jody Cundy, wheelchair racer Dave Weir and archer Danielle Brown is also set to be high on the list.

Wheelchair racer David Weir, swimmer Heather Frederiksen and cyclist Darren Kenny
David Weir, Heather Frederiksen and Darren Kenny all struck gold in Beijing

Research carried out before last year's Beijing Paralympics by Locog indicated that although 94% of those surveyed were aware of the Paralympic Games, 69% were unable to name a Paralympian.

"Ellie is already a star but if we were in a normal cycle people would probably think, perhaps, what was the name of that swimmer?" said Holmes.

"It puts her in a strong position but there is no reason why we could not push a programme around various athletes and people.

"Having Paralympic role models at the very heart of 2012 is helping to create a message, not just to possible Paralympians but to every disabled child that they can just try out sport and other things."

But visually impaired cyclist Anthony Kappes, who won double Paralympic gold in Beijing in the tandem events and who is hoping to compete with Olympic champion Jason Queally in London, says that he and his team-mates need to engage with the public.

"You can see the momentum around the Paralympics and disability sport as a whole increasing after each Games and I think by London people will be engaged with it," he told Radio 5 live.

"But it is up to us as Paralympians to make them engage by being as fast as we can or as strong as can or as accurate as we can - whatever the event is.

"People often look at the disability first, rather than the sport, so our job as athletes is to concentrate on being good and winning things and making people want to watch what we do then I think people will engage with it."

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see also
Birthplace of the Paralympics
28 Aug 09 |  People and Places
GB athletics coach targets 2016
30 Jul 09 |  Disability Sport
Coe confident on 2012 countdown
27 Jul 09 |  Olympics
British Paralympians return home
18 Sep 08 |  Disability Sport
Paralympic baton passed to London
17 Sep 08 |  Disability Sport
A-Z of Paralympic classification
28 Aug 08 |  Disability Sport
Disability Sport on the BBC
02 Nov 09 |  Disability Sport

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