Paralympics 2012: Wealth does not guarantee success - Craven

Sir Philip Craven - President of the International Paralympic Committee

2012 Paralympics

Wednesday, 29 August to Sunday 9 September
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Success at the Paralympics is not down to the wealth of a country, according to the president of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

With the 14th edition to the Games starting next week, the medal table is likely to be dominated by rich nations.

"What may be perceived as wealthy countries [doing well] are countries that have been involved in Paralympic sport longest," said Sir Philip Craven.

The US, Britain and Germany are the most successful Paralympic countries.

"That may also equate with wealth, but I think it's more to do with time that Paralympic sport has been practised.

"Look at Ukraine, they have zoomed into view in both summer and winter Paralympic sport, so you can move up the medal table relatively quickly."

Britain is second in the all-time medal table to the US, with Germany third, Canada fourth, Australia fifth and France sixth. The rest of the top 30 positions or so are held by European nations or other wealthy parts of the industrialised world.

There are 52 countries that have attended Paralympic Games without winning a medal, and most of those are from Africa, Asia and Central America.

Craven also identified the inexorable rise of China at the Paralympics: from 13th in the medal table in 1992, to runaway leaders at the last two Games, a position he expects the Chinese to retain in London.

The Bolton-born administrator has also encouraged the introduction of new technology at the Paralympics, where advances in prostheses and wheelchair design are often applied for the first time.

"It's very important not to hold back technology," he said.

"But we have to make it more available for far more athletes in far more countries.

"We have to level out the playing field where and when we can, but technology is very important to move forward."

Craven, who competed for Great Britain in five Paralympics between 1972 and 1988, has been in a wheelchair since 1966, when he injured his spine in a mountaineering accident aged just 16.

Now 62, the former wheelchair basketball star believes it is important to remember that developments in equipment at the Paralympics filter through to the wider population in the same way that innovations in motorsport do for road cars.

"All these everyday chairs, like the one I'm sat in now, came from wheelchair basketball," he said.

"[The progress] doesn't come from some major company. It comes from the players who designed them 10 or 20 years ago."

One of the IPC's new goals is to develop and foster talent wherever it may be.

London 2012 sits in the middle of the IPC's third four-year strategic plan, Craven explained.

The previous two plans, which started in 2003, concentrated on building the profile of the Games, but the third has a second element, "the creation of Paralympic athletes all over the world".

With London 2012 marking the return of the Paralympic movement to the country in which it originated 64 years ago, Craven is convinced the Games have never been healthier or more integrated in the wider sporting calendar.

"The movement came of age in Beijing - people got to know it all over the world - and now the Games are coming home," he said.

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