Charlie McMillan: Games boost for para-sport

Libby Clegg wins gold number 13 for Scotland. Picture: Neil Hanna
Libby Clegg wins gold number 13 for Scotland. Picture: Neil Hanna
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The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games will be remembered as a success for many reasons. From the incredible performance of the Scottish team to the surprisingly good weather, the Games have created a real feelgood factor across the country in the same way that the London Olympics did two years ago.

For disabled people and disability organisations such as Capability Scotland one of the highlights has been watching para-sport being incorporated so seamlessly into the event.

Billed as the most inclusive Games ever, with more para-sport medal events than ever before, it was fabulous to see teams of disabled and non-disabled athletes enter Celtic Park together at the opening ceremony.

It has been wonderful to watch the nation celebrate the achievement of athletes such as Libby Clegg and Erraid Davies alongside the success of non-disabled athletes, in a way that embodies the inclusive society we are all striving to create.

There is no doubt that the success of the para-athletes, coupled with the profile para-sport has been given over the last ten days has been inspirational. We have to be ready to capitalise on the energy and enthusiasm created by the Games and use it as a catalyst for getting disabled people involved in sport across the board – not just at an elite level.

The benefits of exercise and physical activity are wide ranging yet disabled people are often excluded from sporting activities – the latest Scottish Health Survey found that significantly fewer disabled people reached recommended levels of physical activities.

Capability Scotland recently took part in a think tank run by Independent Living in Scotland (ILiS) which looked at addressing this issue.

The think tank produced a comprehensive report with recommendations to increase the inclusion of disabled people in sport. The recommendations cover areas such as training and education, research and communication and suggest that disabled people need to be working in partnership with the Scottish Government, sports organisations, and other relevant agencies to develop an action plan that will result in improved access to sport.

To celebrate Glasgow 2014, Capability Scotland services across the country have been holding a range of sporting activities designed to encourage customers to develop their sporting skills and try out new activities, from seated volleyball to boccia (boules). The taster sessions, provided by sports providers from the local communities around our services, have been very well received, and this is something we will do more of as we develop sports and leisure activities across our services.

It seems then that the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games have succeeded in being a fantastic showcase for disability sport. They have shown us what can be achieved when the right support and infrastructure is in place and they have inspired organisations like ourselves to think about what we can do to encourage participation in sport amongst the people who use our services. If Scotland can build on this and show in four years time that access to sport for disabled people has improved then that will be a tremendous legacy of which Glasgow 2014 can rightly be proud.

• Charlie McMillan is director of services and development at Capability Scotland (