Over 500 people joined Paralympic athletes and 20 Paralympic summer and winter sports at Sports Fest in Manchester yesterday.
The attendance figures mean that close to 2,500 people have attended a Sports Fest in the 18 months since the first event, which was designed to capture the enthusiasm and inspiration from the London 2012 Paralympic Games, was held in December 2012.
The Sportcity-based event was supported by ParalympicsGB’s most successful summer Paralympian, Dame Sarah Storey, and first ever ParalympicsGB winter gold medallist Kelly Gallagher. The pair were at the event to sign autographs, have their photos taken and show off their medals to participants.
Dame Sarah Storey said: “I’ve been blown away by the numbers here today, I don’t know what I expected, but it’s been remarkable in terms of how busy every stand has been. There’s a real buzz in the room and the constant noise level tells you that lots of stuff is going on. It’s just been superb.
”It’s been really inspiring to see the base of the pyramid broadening. Every person that came through the door was clearly a sports fan and it’s good to get more people involved.
“If something inspires people here today then they should keep on at it, log onto the Deloitte Parasport website to look for a club in their local area and utilise what they’ve learnt today to keep reminding themselves, because I’m sure there was lots of encouragement coming from each of the sports stands here today.”
Kelly Gallagher added: “I’ve really enjoyed today. It’s been great to share the experience and success of London 2012 and Sochi 2014 with all of the visitors to Sports Fest. There’s a real buzz around Sportcity and it’s so fantastic to see so many people of different ages and backgrounds here to try out Paralympic sport. I hope that people leave here today with the confidence to try out new sports at club level or the enthusiasm to go out and compete if that’s their dream.”
Building on the success of ParalympicsGB at the Sochi Paralympic Winter Games, there was for the first time ever an opportunity for attendees at Sports Fest to try out skiing on the slopes of nearby Chill Factore.
Tim Hollingsworth, Chief Executive of the British Paralympic Association, added: “Manchester has long been a home of Paralympic sport and it is great to be back here today for Sports Fest. We’ve had a terrific day with an incredible number of people through the door to meet the medallists, try the sports and get inspired. Our belief is that London started something special, our role is to help and support the sports as they seek to get more people involved. Day’s like today are part of that ambition.”
The event was funded by the Cadbury Foundation and supported by volunteers from Mondelez International. Senior representatives from Mondelez attended Sports Fest to observe all the action and to see why their support is so valuable.
Maurizio Brusadelli, President of Mondelēz International UK & Ireland, said: “The Cadbury Foundation is proud to support Sports Fest, which has successfully continued the legacy of the Paralympic Games and encouraged local people to get involved with disability sports that they may not have had the opportunity to try.”
Other Paralympians who supported the event today included John Stubbs (Archery), Peter Finbow, Kevin Hayes and Sarah McPhee (Wheelchair Basketball), Alex Jewitt (Wheelchair Tennis) and Charlie Walker (Sitting Volleyball).
Sports Fest in Manchester is the fourth of the London 2012-inspired come-and-try events hosted by the British Paralympic Association (BPA) and supported by National Governing Bodies. Across the last three events, approximately 2,000 attendees have come through the doors of events held across the country.
Sports Fest promises attendees the chance to ‘meet the medallists, try the sports, get inspired’ and they can participate in a number of activities, including come-and-try sessions for Paralympic summer and winter sports as well as meet the medallists sessions, where attendees can put their questions to athletes, have their photos taken and get autographs.
The date of the next event will be announced in due course.