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In London, exemplary Paralympic Games did not change society

Sarah Storey had decided to lock herself in her bubble, cutting off her access to social networks and the media. The day before, on August 30, 2012, she had won the first gold medal of the British Paralympic team in front of 6,000 spectators, in a raging velodrome. But, while preparing for the other races that awaited her, the cyclist had not realized the surge she had just caused. “That’s when I went to a medical center in the Olympic Village, which had posted the day’s newspapers. I found myself facing a veritable wall of photos of me, I was everywhere. I couldn’t believe it. »

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At the end of summer 2012, Sarah Storey had just won the first of her four gold medals at this edition of the Paralympic Games in London (August 29 to September 9, 2012). Games with immense popular success. Never have so many nations (164) and athletes (4,237) participated. Never had the media coverage been so important: 11 million viewers for the opening ceremony in the United Kingdom; 40 million Britons connected during the fortnight to Channel 4, which had beaten most of the other channels every night on the audience meter. Around the world, with the notable exception of the United States – NBC, holder of the rights, broadcast only 5.5 hours of media coverage – most other countries had followed suit, almost doubling the broadcast compared to at the 2008 Paralympic Games, with 2,500 hours of broadcast.

“Above all, all the tickets had been sold and not given away”, recalls Tanni Grey-Thompson, former wheelchair racing champion, eleven gold medalists to her credit, and now a member of the House of Lords. Admittedly, the 2.7 million tickets were much cheaper than for the Olympics, which had been held a few weeks earlier, but the athletes found themselves in front of full stadiums in an electric atmosphere. “London changed the dimension of the Paralympic Games, setting the bar high for all successors”said Penny Briscoe, head of mission of the British Paralympic team.

A turning point

What a long way to go compared to the Paralympic Games in which Tanni Grey-Thompson was in Seoul in 1988. At the time, disabled athletes had been accommodated outside the Olympic village. “For fear of not being able to resell these apartments later”, she recalls. Four years earlier, Los Angeles had refused to organize the Paralympic Games.

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