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SBD Global/August 27, 2012/Events and Attractions

Paralympic Games Organizers Accused Of Discriminating Wheelchair Users

Paralympics organizers are accused of forcing wheelchair users to pay more for booking tickets.
Paralympic Games organizers "have been accused of discriminating against the disabled after forcing wheelchair users to book tickets on phone lines costing up to 40 pence a minute," according to Myers, Whelan & Stoneman of the London DAILY MAIL. A Mail on Sunday investigation has revealed that "those trying to book wheelchair tickets for events have to ring an 0844 number in order to buy tickets or check availability." Able-bodied people can simply buy them online from LOCOG without incurring extra costs. Calls cost 5 pence a minute from a BT landline, up to 40 pence a minute from a mobile on the Orange network, 35 pence on Vodafone and Three, and 25 pence on O2. Former Labour Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe, chairman of the all-party disability sports group at Westminster, branded the phone charges "unacceptable" and called on LOCOG to remove them (DAILY MAIL, 8/25). Sutcliffe said: "The organising committee have done a fantastic job, but there is discrimination against those people who are wheelchair users, who are going to have to use this premium rate." He also said that people who have called the business rate lines "should be reimbursed." Sutcliffe said "We are not talking about vast amounts of money here against the context of the Games, but it is the principle of the thing" (BBC, 8/26). In London, Tom Lawrence reported people have also criticized LOCOG's policy that states "wheelchair users can only be accompanied by one other person per ticket." An online petition has been set up by Beth Davis-Hofbauer "calling for the rules to be changed and has attracted nearly 40,000 signatures." The disabled mother-of-two said that she "wanted to sit with all of her family but was stunned to find out it was not possible" (INDEPENDENT, 8/26).

NO ENTRY: Also in London, Robert Booth wrote that the organizers of the Paralympic Games "have apologised to 3,000 volunteer cast members for not allowing them to invite friends and family to dress rehearsals for Wednesday's sold-out Opening Ceremony." Volunteers who appeared in Danny Boyle's Opening Ceremony for the Olympics "were given two tickets each to allow loved ones to watch them perform in full dress rehearsals." Performers in the Paralympic equivalent have been upset not to receive the same opportunity. Some volunteers are considering drawing up a petition to demand tickets to Sunday and Monday's rehearsals for the show called "Enlightenment," which will open with a fly past by Aerobility, a British charity that trains disabled people to become pilots (GUARDIAN, 8/24).

THE MOOD OF THE NATION: The GUARDIAN's Owen Gibson reported that London Mayor Boris Johnson "caught the mood for all those involved in the Games." Johnson said, "For some people it will be even more exciting and some people will be switched on in a way they weren't to the Olympic Games." Even before the "giddy success of Team GB at the Olympics turbocharged demand," organizers sold more Paralympic tickets than for any other Games in history. More than 2.3 million tickets "have been sold, with around 200,000 more due to be drip-fed on the website as venue configurations are finalised." Around "half of those tickets will have been sold by the time 116 teams travel through the night to deliver the Paralympic flame" from Stoke Mandeville to Stratford for Wednesday's Opening Ceremony. LOCOG has driven demand by offering good value tickets and encouraging families and large groups -- the London Games organizers "will raise just £25M ($39.5M) from Paralympic ticket sales" compared with more than £500M ($790.5M) from the Olympics -- but the very fact that everyone who is there has paid to get in is a first for the Paralympics (GUARDIAN, 8/25).
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