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Paralympic Games

Volume 480: debated on Monday 6 October 2008

2. If she will make a statement on the participation of people with learning disabilities in the London 2012 Paralympic Games. (224391)

The Government fully support efforts to see athletes with intellectual disability eligible to compete in the Paralympic Games. I am delighted that the International Paralympic Committee and the International Sports Federation for Persons with Intellectual Disability envisage that that should be possible for the London 2012 games. That is reliant, however, on some additional work in order to ensure full fairness, and I am delighted that the Department is helping to fund that further research.

I am very grateful to the Minister for that answer. I am sure that she was as heartened as I was by the announcement during the Paralympic games that progress had been made on an objective test so that it could be verified that athletes did indeed have a learning disability. I am sure that she will welcome swift progress towards allowing these people to compete. We both share the vision of having them compete in London 2012, which will be particularly important for those who train at the Forest fitness centre in my constituency. For them, the goal of participating in the London Olympics or Paralympics is indeed inspirational.

I fully recognise that this would be both a popular and fair moveā€”one that I have argued for throughout my long association with the Olympic movement. I very much hope that negotiations will conclude and allow athletes with learning disabilities to take part in the 2012 games.

Notwithstanding changes in the Olympics and Paralympics and the success that Loughborough has had, will the Minister also recognise the special place of the Special Olympics, which will come to the city of Leicester in 2009? I declare an interest as a board member, but this should not be just a Leicester city or county-wide celebration; it should be a nationwide celebration of people with learning difficulties participating in the Special Olympics.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right and I am quite sure that Leicester will look forward to welcoming the world to the Special Olympics when they are hosted there next year. I look forward to attending them.