By Kate Madley
Wales has been hosting 530 Paralympic athletes and support staff from 15 nations at training camps using a wide range of sports facilities in Cardiff, Newport and Swansea.
The 2012 Games in London is the biggest Paralympics ever with nearly all the 2.5 million tickets for 11 days of competition already sold.
As the buzz builds ahead of the opening ceremony tomorrow, Wales is taking pride in the part it has played in hosting athletes and ensuring they are fully prepared to take the international stage.
“Pre-games training camps are critical to helping overseas athletes make their final preparations before heading into the Games,” said Jon Morgan, Executive Director of Disability Sport Wales.
“The opportunity to host camps here in Wales enables us to forge lasting relationships with countries like New Zealand and Australia, enabling us to share best practice and innovation for many years to come.
“Wales has been a popular choice for visiting teams because of our sporting facilities, infrastructure and access to first class support services.
“Over the years, we have built strong relationships with a number of Paralympic committees across the globe – they are aware of our proud tradition of Paralympic sport here in Wales and our commitment to disability sport in our communities. This has been a major factor.”
The spotlight will be focussed on the Olympic Park in London this week, with the Paralympic Games official opening ceremony tomorrow (29 August). A record 4,200 athletes from 166 countries will be competing watched by an estimated world-wide television audience of 4 billion.
Wales has 38 athletes competing in Team GB, and some of the home athletes have been making full use of the world-class training facilities on offer.
Jon Morgan continued: “Our athletes are now at their own Pre-Games Training Camps, and they will be focussed on the final few days of training.
“Paralympic GB’s cycling team have been honing their preparations at the Wales National Velodrome in Newport. So for Wales’s Mark Colbourne, it will very much be a home from home. That’s where he learnt his craft after breaking his back just over two years ago.
“And Welsh athletes will certainly be proud of the fact that nations who have trained here in Wales talk so highly of the facilities and the friendliness of the Welsh people.”
Wales has hosted range of overseas Paralympians from Australian and American cyclists in Cardiff and Newport to New Zealand’s athletics, shooting and swimming teams in Swansea.
The whole Mexican team have been based at Swansea University making full use of the facilities on offer. Maria de los Angeles Ortiz, currently the women’s world record holder for shot putt, said:
“This is my second Paralympics – I competed in Beijing in 2008 where I won a silver medal. I like training in Swansea – I like the green areas, and people are very friendly. The departments and buildings within Swansea University are comfortable to train in.”
Photo: Swansea University