Paralympics countdown begins

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Saturday 29 August represented exactly three years to go to the start of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) marked the milestone countdown date by announcing the appointment of Chris Holmes MBE as its new director of Paralympic Integration. Holmes will lead on all aspects of London 2012's planning and organisation for the Paralympic Games. He has had a distinguished career as a Paralympic swimmer, winning nine Paralympic gold medals, six at the Barcelona Games in 1992. He is a Patron of the 'Help for Heroes' charity and the British Paralympic Association, has been a board member at UK Sport since 2005 and was a Commissioner on the board of the Disability Rights Commission from 2002–07, as well as practicing at a leading City international law firm. The 'Three Years to Go' milestone was marked by a visit to the Aquatics Centre on the Olympic Park by Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds and Chris Holmes. Progress on the Paralympic front in the last year includes: The Olympic Delivery Authority published its Inclusive Design Strategy last year which sets out the framework for how the Olympic Park is being designed and constructed to be accessible to disabled people. These standards have since been adopted by other organisations and bodies as an example of best practice. LOCOG is undertaking detailed work at the moment on accessible venue designs, and the overlay requirements for temporary venues to ensure that disabled spectators have an enjoyable experience at Games–time. LOCOG will run a Games Mobility service for disabled spectators at both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. This is a service which is designed to provide assistance with spectator movement through public areas and within all competition venues. LOCOG is also looking at all aspects of accessibility in the capital, to make sure that disabled spectators are able to move around the city comfortably and easily. Planning permission has been submitted for Eton Manor which will be the Paralympic Tennis venue during the Games. It will be used as a training facility during the Olympic Games, and after the Paralympic Games it will be transformed to a hockey centre, a tennis centre and five–a–side football pitches. LOCOG's Cultural Olympiad team will launch its third major project Unlimited early this autumn in the UK. Developed in partnership with the UK Arts Councils and the British Council, Unlimited will be the UK's largest ever celebration of arts, disability culture and sport. London 2012 partners are firmly behind the Paralympic Games with a range of activities. These include Lloyds TSB which runs a "Local Heroes" campaign featuring young Paralympic hopefuls, BT is the presenting partner of the Paralympic World Cup, Deloitte runs a Parasport programme giving disabled people access to sport all over the country, adidas is kit supplier to ParalympicsGB and British Airways has a partnership with UK Sport which benefits athletes across 20 Paralympic sports. LOCOG launched in 2008 the '>access now' recruitment outreach programme for disabled people, which offers a guaranteed interview for every disabled candidate that meets the person specification for any salaried role at the organisation. Key priorities in the next year will be to carry on detailed operational planning on all aspects of the Games as well as develop a public awareness campaign to educate the public about Paralympic sport and help them understand and enjoy what they watch in 2012. Sebastian Coe, Chairman of the London 2012 Organising Committee, said: "In three years time we will be welcoming the Paralympic Games home and we will deliver a spectacular showcase for Paralympic sport. However, we have greater ambitions. This is a golden opportunity to raise awareness of Paralympic sport, challenge stereotypes about disability and secure a legacy which would see every disabled child having access to sport. I have been completely blown away by the performances of Paralympic athletes who were doing things that so–called 'able–bodied' people could not hope to achieve. We have always been proud to be the Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. The Paralympic Games are key to our ambitions to use the Games to be a catalyst for lasting change. " Phil Lane, chief executive of ParalympicsGB said: "We are well underway with our own planning for 2012, working with the sports to send the best prepared team to the Games, As part of this, we've just announced Bath as our preparation camp venue and we're still looking for athletes for the British team in 2012. Our next Paralympic Potential day is happening in London on 29 September where we hope to uncover talented sportsmen and women who, with hard work and dedication, will have the honour of representing their country at a home Games. "

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