First Person: Phil Craven 

International Paralympic Committee president to get first look at Whistler

The International Paralympic Committee will visit Whistler this weekend for the first time since the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games were awarded.

The delegation will be led by Phil Craven a five time Paralympian in wheelchair basketball. He has been the president of the IPC since 2001 and previously has held several positions with the International Olympic Committee.

This weekend he will tour the venue sites in Whistler, which will host all the Paralympic events. They include alpine skiing, ice sledge hockey, Nordic skiing and wheelchair curling.

The Paralympic Games have always been held in the same year as the Olympic Games. Since the Seoul 1988 Paralympic Games and the Albertville 1992 Winter Paralympic Games they have taken place at the same venues as the Olympics.

Pique Newsmagazine reached Craven in Europe to explore the hosting of the Paralympics in Whistler.

Pique: What impact will hosting the Paralympic Games in such a small geographical area have on the event? Some paralympians have told me that it will be unique as it will allow athletes from different disciplines to watch colleagues without having to travel for hours to do so.

Phil Craven: All Paralympic sport competitions will be held in Whistler and these Games therefore have potential to become a very compact event, I think that the Paralympians that you have spoken to are right – athletes will have the possibility to attend other sports and become part of the Whistler community. We believe that Whistler will give the Games a more intimate feeling for the athletes, the spectators, basically all involved, seeing that it is a smaller urban centre. I am sure that many athletes will take the opportunity to watch other sports and to cheer on their countrymen and women. The Opening Ceremony will take place in Vancouver, and we look forward to keeping the Vancouver community involved, also during competitions in Whistler.

Pique: I believe this is the first time Canada has hosted the winter Paralympics. What are your hopes for what the Games will do for athletes, and all of those with disabilities, in Canada and beyond?

PC: Yes, it is the first time that Canada is hosting the Paralympic Winter Games. In 1976, Toronto hosted the Paralympic Summer Games, so Canada does have some Paralympic Games experience.

The Paralympic Games always augment awareness for persons with a disability, demonstrating to the host city and the world that athletes with a disability are elite athletes, achieving results close to or, in some cases, even better than able-bodied elite athletes. At the Salt Lake 2002 Winter Paralympics, Paralympian skiers descended the same slopes as Olympians, with speeds of more than 100 km/h. Michael Milton, a single above the knee amputee from Australia, has reached the speed of 198.68 km/h.

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