Australia Brisbane 2032 Paralympics will spark 'cultural change' says para-athlete Kurt Fearnley

03:34  24 july  2021
03:34  24 july  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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"When the Games is done right, we have an amazing event. When it's done perfect, we change the way people with disabilities potentially see themselves," Paralympian Kurt Fearnley said .

When it's done perfect, we change the way people with disabilities potentially change themselves," an emotional Kurt Fearnley says he's very excited announcement of Brisbane Olympics and Paralympics in 2032 . More on

When asked what swimming has done for her, aspiring Paralympian Jamie Booth has one word: "everything".

"It helped everything – physically and mentally," the 20-year-old said.

Brisbane backstroke-champion Jamie is one of many para-athletes counting down to the 2032 home-turf Games, more than 4,000 days away.

A two-time Australian record holder, Jamie has cerebral palsy and profound bilateral deafness.

"People with disabilities can actually do a lot more than what you can actually see or think," she said.

She said the Brisbane Games will be important to showcase this and she is excited about the thought of her family "coming and watching" her in action.

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Brisbane will host the 2032 edition of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, it has been announced, following an 'uncontested vote' in Tokyo. The main venue for Brisbane ’s Olympic events will be the redeveloped Brisbane Cricket Ground, commonly known as the Gabba. Two athletes ’ villages are planned – one in Brisbane and another on the Gold Coast. After the announcement was confirmed, Brisbane 's CBD riverside erupted in a fireworks celebration which had been planned with the result already in the bag.

The Australian city of Brisbane is the "preferred host" for the 2032 Summer Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced Wednesday, in a move which officials said was designed to bring "stability" to the Games after the delay of the Tokyo 2020 edition.

The young athlete is part of the University of Queensland's Paralympics Sports Training and Research team.

While she will not be at the Tokyo Games, she is training for the next three Paralympic Games in Paris, Los Angeles, and then, Brisbane.

Her mother Michelle Booth said the successful Australian bid marked "a full circle" for the family.

"Jamie is amazing. She can't walk, she can't sit up, but she can swim 100 metres [in a time] that ranks fifth in the world," Ms Booth said.

"To have the world come here, in Jamie's backyard — that would just be the icing on the cake [and] so much opportunity"

Kurt Fearnley, a gold-medal-winning Paralympian and Australian disability advocate, said the Games, and the lead-up to them, had the potential to spark "cultural change".

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"The Brisbane 2032 vision and Games plan fit into long-term regional and national strategies for social and economic development in Queensland and Australia, and complement the goals for the Olympic Movement outlined in Olympic Agenda 2020 and 2020+5, while focusing on providing memorable sports experiences for athletes and fans," IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement. "Today's vote is a vote of trust that Brisbane and Queensland will stage magnificent Olympic and Paralympic Games 2032 ."

"People may see a two-week event, but I see 10 years where we are able to intertwine and tell the story of disability in this country," he said.

Mr Fearnley grew up "crawling in the dirt" in Cowra, a town in the New South Wales central-west.

He said he hoped to see a "really strong disability rights movement" in time for the Games, where Queensland "can be a light" for the international community.

"When a Games is done right, we have an amazing event," Mr Fearnley said.

"When it's done perfectly, we change the way people with disabilities potentially see themselves.

"Change starts with sport."

More awareness of para-sport will come

Paralympics Australia president Jack O'Callaghan said that by 2032, Australia would have "a whole new legion of new Paralympic superstars" but the impact would go beyond that.

In its pitch, Paralympics Australia promised to introduce more awareness education into schools and to get half a million disabled Australians playing sport.

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Australian gold medallist Kurt Fearnley says there's an intangible benefit Brisbane is set to gain from hosting the 2032 Olympic Games. "From the Sunshine Coast down to the Gold Coast, if they get this across the line, everyone will be able to get that hands-on experience of the Olympic and Paralympic Games." The champion wheelchair athlete says the games have the power to change the way thousands of kids see their future.

Key points: Brisbane is the smallest city by population to host the Games since 1952. The IOC president says the country has a real love and passion for sport. Olympians say the announcement is a real coup for the future generation of athletes . "How amazing that a generation of young athletes with disabilities can now aspire to become a Paralympian at home [and] that Australians of all abilities can have the opportunity to experience the power of the Paralympics movement on home soil," she said .

The submission stated:

"Of the 4.3 million Australians with a disability, only one in four participates in sport, while 75 per cent want to participate.

"We will establish community programs to encourage greater awareness and sport participation, with the aim of engaging another 500,000 people with a disability in sport by 2032."

Mr O'Callaghan said those words were "not a projection, but a promise".

"That's going to have a profound impact on health and wellbeing, our health system, the communities and the families those people are in," he said.

The Australian Paralympic Education Program has already started providing free resources for Australian teachers and students.

Win for 'athletes with high support needs'

Like Mr O'Callaghan, sports scientist Emma Beckman said the Games would bring lasting benefits.

Dr Beckman is a lead investigator with the University of Queensland's Paralympics Sports Training and Research team and works with Jamie Booth.

She said hosting the "third-biggest sporting event in the world" – the Paralympics – results in permanent changes to venues while also requiring new, accessible ones to be built.

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Dr Beckman said Australia would see an influx of local athletes with "high support needs" becoming involved due to the lowered barrier to travel.

"The prospect of reducing the travel really makes this Paralympics the most accessible ever for our athletes," she said.

"Coaches and clubs and facilities and other people [can see] what is actually possible.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

For para-athletes like Jaryd Clifford, 22, the Brisbane Games means a change to his career plan after thinking the Tokyo Games would be his last.

As the news broke, the vision-impaired long-distance runner from Melbourne tweeted: "I'll be 33 for Brisbane 2032! I reckon I might try stick around."

"Now hearing about Brisbane 2032, I know my career will have to extend to that because I'd be crazy for it to not," he said.

Mr Clifford is representing Australia in Tokyo in the 1,500 metre, 5,000 metre, and marathon events.

But he is now on a different kind of marathon – without a crowd in Tokyo due to coronavirus health restrictions, he is holding out for an Australian crowd.

"I was supposed to have my parents and a lot of my family and friends … to watch me," Mr Clifford said.

"It will definitely be made up for by being able to compete at the Paralympic Games in front of all of them in Australia in 2032."

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