London organisers defend decision not to invite Jason Smyth

By John HaugheyBBC Sport NI
Jason Smyth celebrates after completing the T13 sprint double at last year's London Paralympics

British Athletics has defended its decision not to invite four-time Paralympic gold medallist Jason Smyth to July's London Anniversary Games.

Smyth expressed frustration at not being given the chance to compete at the meeting.

It will take place on the first anniversary of the London Olympics opening ceremony.

British Athletics said it had to be "selective" about the events chosen for the day of Paralympic competition.

Michael McKillop and Jason Smyth were lauded after their triumphs at last year's Paralympics

"Working with the IPC (International Paralympic Committee) we only have a three to four hour programme on 28 July," a British Athletics spokesperson told the insidethegames website.

"We would love to be able to invite more athletes to compete but under the current schedule we only have time to host 18 events, including one men's and women's 100m."

The men's 100m will feature British Paralympic gold medallist Jonnie Peacock.

The British Athletics spokesman added: "One of the most memorable moments from the Paralympic Games was Jonnie Peacock's famous 100m it makes sense for us to include his race in the schedule."

IPC communications and media director Craig Spence also defended the decision not to invite the fastest Paralympian on the planet to the London meeting.

"At London 2012 we had 170 different track and field events spread over 10 days," Spence told insidethegames.

"This included 15 men's 100m races involving different classes."

He added that for Anniversary Games, the organisers were "limited to 18 events covering both track and field for both men and women".

"Clearly we cannot include every single event from London 2012 in the programme which was proposed by British Athletics and approved by IPC Athletics, the media director said.

"Unfortunately we are aware that there will be some disappointed athletes. However, they can now focus fully on July's World Championships in Lyon, France."

However, the explanations from British Athletics and the IPC are unlikely to satisfy the 25-year-old Irishman.

The visually-impaired Irish sprinter repeated his T13 100m and 200m double from Beijing at last year's London Games but will not get the chance to compete again in a packed Olympic Stadium on 28 July.

Smyth was lauded by the huge London crowds last September and was one of the faces of Paralympics as he received worldwide exposure.

Speaking to BBC Northern Ireland on Tuesday, Smyth said: "You would expect if they want to push Paralympic sport forward and make it more recognised that logically, you would use the best athletes to promote it.

"You are going to have the Olympic athletes competing just before the Paralympic day and you are going to invite the Usain Bolts and the other top athletes. To me, Paralympic sport should be no different.

"To come out of last year's games as the fastest Paralympian on the planet - isn't that somebody you would think you would want to have at the Anniversary Games?"