The number of people visiting Deloitte Parasport, the website which signposts people with a disability to sporting opportunities, has soared thanks to the Paralympic Games. Over 37,500 people visited the site between August 29th and September 10th, compared with 1,400 people during the same period last year, an increase of more than 2,000%. A significant majority of visitors to the site have used the ‘Find a Club’ function suggesting that people have been inspired by the performances of ParalympicsGB and want to get more active.
Deloitte Parasport was created in 2007 by the British Paralympic Association (BPA) and Deloitte as a way to signpost disabled people to high quality opportunities and drive grassroots participation. The site saw its first surge of visitors after the Beijing Paralympic Games when 20,000 people logged on in one month. By January this year, 40,000 people were using the site each month and that figure has now increased again to around 60,000. Almost 3,000 sports clubs are now registered on the site in total.
Sarah Storey, whose four gold medals at London 2012 took her overall tally of Paralympic gold medals to 11, said: “London was such an incredible host for the Paralympic Games. I’ve competed at every Games since Barcelona and have never experienced such large and passionate crowds. Winning gold medals is an indescribable feeling but it would be very special indeed if my performances and those of my team mates play a part in encouraging more people with an impairment to get active. I would encourage anyone to get on to Parasport and give sport a go.”
Martin Austin, Chair of the Derby Wheelblazers, said: “There is absolutely no doubt that the Paralympic Games have inspired disabled and non-disabled people alike to try a new sport and get active. We’ve had lots of enquiries from potential new players for next season, along with more requests for our players to demonstrate the sport to schoolchildren and other community groups. More broadly, there has clearly been an increase in the awareness of our sport. Wheelchair basketball is a fantastic sport and London 2012 has brought it to national attention.”
In addition to increasing the number of people participating in disability sport, Parasport is also an important building block in securing a pipeline of talented athletes to represent Great Britain. Paralympic rower Sam Scowen found her first club through Parasport and after her ability was spotted at the Dorney Boat Club she was recommended to attend a Paralympic Potential day. Sam went on to represent ParalympicsGB at London 2012 and finished just outside of the medals, in fourth place in her TA mixed double scull.
Following the success of the Games, the BPA intends to run a Paralympic Festival over the coming year to give people the opportunity to try a full range of disability sports, discover clubs and sports centres in their area that have the facilities to continue to allow them to play and meet some of Great Britain’s medal winning Paralympians.
Jane Jones, Marketing and Communications Director for the BPA, said: “The whole country has been inspired by the amazing achievements of the athletes at the Paralympic Games. Building on this momentum we want to give people of all abilities the opportunity to try disability sport and discover sports clubs and centres where they can play in their area. They will also have the chance to meet their heroes, as medal winning Paralympians will attend to demonstrate their sport. Whether they are looking to find a new hobby, get fit or become a professional athlete this festival will have something for everyone.”
Heather Hancock, lead London 2012 partner at Deloitte, said: “Five years ago we helped the BPA to identify gaps in the disability sport infrastructure in the UK. One of the challenges faced at the time was how to find a way of getting more people active, whilst broadening the pool of athletes that could go on to compete at an elite level. We are incredibly proud that Deloitte Parasport has played and continues to play such a big role in helping the BPA overcome this challenge.
“Our support for disability sport pre-dates our London 2012 sponsorship and whilst we can now reflect on an incredible Paralympic Games and celebrate the impact our programme has had, we also look forward. Last weekend, hundreds of cyclists reached the finish line of Deloitte Ride Across Britain, the 1,000 mile Land’s End to John O’Groats cycle challenge that has already raised £1m for the BPA and will raise even more money next year. It is a privilege to support the BPA and we look forward to continuing our relationship through to Sochi and beyond.”
Check out the Deloitte Parasport site at www.parasport.org.uk.