The Philippines at the Paralympics: I can!

By Stephen Lillie

Many people have called this year’s London Olympics the Greatest Show on Earth. Well, part two begins this week with the opening of the Paralympic Games on 29 August.

These will be the biggest Paralympics ever, and the Philippines is fielding its largest team yet, with nine athletes planning to go for gold in swimming, athletics, table tennis and power lifting. I was delighted to meet the squad last week, when they graced the British
Embassy’s “I Can!” Photography Exhibition at SM Podium Mall in Ortigas.

The Paralympics began in Britain, at the time of the 1948 London Olympics. So for many Britons, it feels like the games are “coming home”. For the first time, the Olympics and Paralympics form a fully integrated programme under the single banner “London 2012″. Ensuring that venues and public transport are fully accessible to people with disabilities, London 2012 is the most accessible Olympics and Paralympics ever.

The Paralympics promise to be another great spectacle of sport. Just as important, they promise to change the way people think, feel and behave towards disability and disability sport. From combatting prejudice in wider society, to encouraging more disabled people to get involved in grassroots and competitive sport, the Games should be truly transformational.

It was with the same intention of changing attitudes that the British Embassy partnered with a number of other organisations to run the “I Can” photography competition in July.

The competition set out to capture the most eye-catching images of persons with disabilities leading active and productive lives. The winners and finalists’ entries are being displayed in the “I Can!” Photography Exhibition at different SM Malls around the country for the duration of the Paralympic Games.

The entries may be viewed on the British Embassy’s Flickr account. I think they’re impressive, and I really hope they will inspire and promote greater respect for the achievements of the disabled.

My thanks go to our partners in this venture: SM Supermalls, PhilSPADA-NPC Philippines, the British Council and Samsung. Many congratulations to all our winners, in particular Sheila Pamakid, whose entry titled “I Can be full”, was declared both the Grand Winner and the Voter’s Choice.

And to the Philippine Paralympians: the very best of luck; we hope you’ll be winners too. Along with Team GB, the British Embassy is cheering you on.