Helene Raynsford is a former Paralympian and currently Strategic Commissioner for Families and Wellbeing for Wokingham Borough Council and the Chair of London 2012 legacy project, Motivate East. She tells Able Magazine why sporting legacy is so important.

Why is legacy so important?

The object of legacy is to inspire anyone who has been in touch with the Games and watching an individual taking the next step towards whatever their goal might be. That might not be one day getting involved in the Paralympics, it might be getting involved in a sports club, it might be pushing themselves to take the next steps with a hobby or an interest. For me it’s taking the value of the Paralympic Games and actually investing them in someone’s life and seeing the impact that can have on them. If we can use the Games to inspire individuals with a whole variety of disabilities and health conditions to get involved in sport, be that participating in it – which will clearly (positively) impact their health and wellbeing, be that getting involved in the organisational side if they aren’t able to participate in terms of administration of a club or volunteering, they’re all going to have a really positive impact on those individuals.

Can the Rio Games also provide a legacy for British people?

There is a huge impact in sporting infrastructure and impact associated with the Games. In a country such as Great Britain it’s been easier to leave the infrastructure in place. I think that Rio can still provide a legacy for British individuals; it’s about getting schools and organisations involved in the hype in the run-up to the Games – and all of the same things that happened with the London Games, such as schools supporting particular countries and having that real involvement in the Games. That’ll increase peoples’ awareness.

The fact that it is the Games after our own ‘home’ Games puts us at a much better advantage to keep the momentum.

I think it’s quite a challenging time for local authorities in terms of reducing budgets so actually the physical building of more infrastructure will be very challenging wherever they are in the UK but I think that in some ways that Rio is an opportunity not to miss and that we actually need to make a concerted effort to carry the same commitment to inspire young people through watching the Games over in Rio.

How do you think we should avoid the problem of complacency?

If you’re talking about legacy after each of the Games, it’s a rolling programme – a new bunch of people will have reached the age where they can participate in sport and reached the age when in previous Games they wouldn’t have been able to have gone off to a club quite so easily. Legacy isn’t just tied to one Games and it’s more about the Paralympic movement as a whole.

It comes down to local planning, local sports organisations, schools, local authorities. It’s really about making sure ahead of time, that we’ve got those plans in place and that they are exploring those opportunities.

Sport is about helping to make people more physically active and actually about the other important elements such as the skills towards independence and social inclusion. It’s all of those elements that actually make up somebody’s ‘whole’ wellbeing. We want to capture that and not miss this opportunity.

Please tell me more about Motivate East.

They’re currently up to 26, 635 unique participants (June 2016). They organise all sorts of physical activities, not just sport and they provide that to disabled people. We have 92 trained volunteers, 20 of which have become employed – legacy agents are all about training people with disabilities within physical activity and sport. There are 700 volunteering opportunities. Some will just come along and volunteer and others will get involved in gaining formal qualifications.

The exciting bit about the programme is that 1,450 pieces of equipment have been loaned out to clubs, schools and individuals to enable participation in sporting activities. The reach is far greater than just around the (Olympic) Park itself. The programme was originally based around the Park and then extended into the seven local authority areas that surround it. The plan going forward is to grow and build on what they’ve currently got and look at new opportunities.

More: www.motivateeast.co.uk