Q: What were the highlights of 2014 for you? Sir Philip Craven: This year had many highlights, but I better start with the record breaking success of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. They broke all ticket and TV viewing records and the blueprint that was created in terms of accessibility in Sochi is now being rolled out across Russia. The performances of the para-athletes in Sochi were mesmerising; they continue to astound not just myself with what they can achieve but millions of others around the world.
I was also delighted that despite the political situation all nations stayed to compete in Sochi and that through liaison with Russian government and the Russian Paralympic Committee, the Ukrainian National Paralympic Committee can continue to train at their high performance training centre in Crimea.
The IPC’s 25th anniversary celebrations were not just one of the highlights of the year for me, but one of the stand-out features of my presidency. To see so many world leaders from sport, politics and entertainment paying tribute to the success and growth of the Paralympic Movement was testament to the amazing hard work and dedication of all those involved in what we do.
I also enjoyed the IPC Membership Gathering that we staged in Berlin. It was a great opportunity for all IPC members to have their say on the key issues affecting the Paralympic Movement without the politics of a General Assembly getting in the way. There was a lot of fruitful and constructive dialogue and I would like to thank all those who attended and got involved.
Finally, the IPC’s growing relationship with the IOC has also pleased me. I was personally very touched to hear IOC President Thomas Bach highlight the excellent co-operation between the two organisations at the start of the recent IOC Extraordinary Session in Monaco.
What does 2015 have in store for the Paralympic Movement? Quite simply one of the busiest years ever!
In terms of sport there are multiple World and regional Championships and many will have an impact on which athletes and teams will be competing at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
August’s Parapan American Games in Toronto, Canada, are also key as the next two years are huge for the Paralympic Movement in growing awareness in the Americas. With athletes competing in 15 sports, I am confident they will be a great success.
The last full year before the Paralympics is always vital and, in 2015, Rio will be staging a number of test events, as well as the Chef de Mission seminar, as their preparations gear up for the final push. Away from the on-field sport, the IPC will publish its latest Strategic Plan which covers 2015-2018 which aims to continue the growth of the Paralympic Movement over the next four years.
Looking ahead to Rio 2016, how successful do you think the Games will be there? I am really excited and optimistic about the success of the Paralympic Games in Rio in less than two years’ time. The Organising Committee has done a great deal of preparation work in 2014, especially in forming a Paralympic Integration Committee within the Organising Committee.
People around the world are a little more relaxed now they are seeing the venues develop and what I think will be special about Rio 2016 is the culture and atmosphere. The Carioca like to party, and I hope Rio 2016 is one big party for the spectators and for the athletes once they have competed!
I’m also delighted to welcome Tom, the new Rio 2016 Paralympic mascot. My grandkids have already fallen head over heels in love with him and I am sure his popularity will soar between now and the Games.