I am still living on the feeling of joining 79,000 others in signing ‘I am what I am’ at the finale of the Opening Ceremony. For me, nothing beats that moment – looking around the crowd as people stood, stamped and moved to the song made a classic by Gloria Gaynor, while collectively telling the world in British Sign Language that we are all who we are. It powerfully reinforced the meaning of the word - ‘inclusion’ truly is about each and every one of us in all our differences.
The inclusiveness of the London 2012 Paralympic Games is not just a product of the excellent work of London 2012 and all who sail in her, but also the result of hard yards over many years by many different people and organisations to make the UK as inclusive as it is today. While there is still vastly more to be done, it is an important time to recognise just what has been achieved.
It is fitting then, that the cultural pinnacle for the disability movement in London, ‘Liberty’ celebrates its tenth anniversary in the midst of this festival of sport and culture. No cultural babe-in-the-woods, Liberty’s free, three-day season features the world’s top disabled performers and artists in dance, theatre, music and the visual arts and has a solid and mature place on the international cultural trail. Events are happening at the heart of the nation’s capital at Southbank. Liberty is alongside her sister festival ‘Unlimited’ which features ticketed performances across the creative arts, featuring disabled performers and artists as part of the London 2012 Festival.
At the intersection between sport and culture is the beauty of elite endeavour. Behind both are the stories of the athletes and artists who engage something so fundamental in us all. I was reminded of this when heading out to the Opening Ceremony. We ran into a bunch of Australians piling out of a house in our street, also on their way to the Stadium. It turned out they were the extended family of young Australian swimmer, Ellie Cole, and they had all come over from Australia to support their star family athlete. It was particularly sweet then to be in the Aquatics Centre a couple of nights ago when Ellie Cole won her first gold medal of the Games. Just as Ellie Simmonds is a household name in Great Britain, so too will Ellie Cole become one in Australia. So, here’s to the Ellies – and here’s to the magic of sport and culture – it brings out the desire to be included in us all.