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SBD Global/August 14, 2012/Olympics

London Paralympics Hitting Record Sales, Could Cause Major Gridlock

Even as Great Britain "exhales a slightly sad, if self-satisfied, sigh of relief," at the conclusion of the London Games, London 2012 organizers are "kicking off a mammoth turnaround operation to get the capital ready for the biggest Paralympics in history," according to Alexandra Topping of the London GUARDIAN. With just 16 days until the Paralympics, thousands of flags and banners in dozens of venues will be changed, hundreds of buses will be converted, new volunteer recruits will be trained and "thousands of journalists will start trying to comprehend the intricacies of goalball and the Paralympic classification system." There have so far been "record sales of tickets," which could result in the first Paralympic Games sell out in its 52-year history. Some 2.1 million tickets out of a released 2.5 million "have already sold." Organisers must now ensure London is ready to welcome 4,200 athletes from 165 nations. In the next few days, "Paralympians from around the globe will begin to arrive" to Heathrow. British Airways Authority implemented new lifts and improved baggage handling after London's successful bid, which means "in theory" that wheelchair users will be able to take their own chair directly from the plane to the gate for the first time. The first Paralympians will arrive at the Olympic Village on Aug. 20, just five days after the last Olympic athletes leave. The area will be complete with accessible toilets, ramps, rooms and communal areas (GUARDIAN, 8/13).

PARALYMPIC AWARENESS: The BBC reported that Int'l Paralympic Committee Head of Media Craig Spence said that "awareness of the Paralympics was at a record high." He added that traffic to the Paralympics official website has increased by 200%, Twitter followers of the IPC (@Paralympic) grew by 25% during the three hours of Sunday's Closing Ceremony, and #paralympics was trending worldwide overnight. Spence: "We've already beaten Beijing by 300,000 seats, which is a phenomenal achievement and shows the insatiable hunger in Britain for elite sport." The Paralympics will run from Aug. 29-Sept. 9 and will be staged largely in the Olympic Park, with sailing events at Weymouth and Portland, rowing at Eton Dorney and road cycling events at Brands Hatch, south of London. Wheelchair tennis matches will be staged at Eton Manor, a stadium inside the Olympic Park, rather than at Wimbledon (BBC, 8/13). The London DAILY MAIL noted there is "record demand to see the Paralympics," which London's Transport Chief warned could cause London to "grind to a halt." London's Commissioner for Transport Peter Hendy said that staging the world's second-biggest sporting event just as the new school year begins in September "could cause travel chaos." Hendy urged people not to underestimate "the scale of hosting another world event and continue to plan accordingly" (DAILY MAIL, 8/13).
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