Last weekend, the 2016 Paralympic Games drew to a close with a lively and colourful closing ceremony. Once again, Rio de Janeiro was a wonderful host for the 4,500 athletes taking part in the largest disabilities tournament in the world. As with the Olympics, the British team, Paralympics GB, surpassed all original expectations. Once again finishing second, Paralympics GB won an astonishing 147 medals – including 64 gold medals. Our best ever tally, improving further on the amazing results from four years ago.
I would like to send special congratulations to two local medallists. Piers Gilliver, from Drybrook, went all the way to the final, winning a very impressive silver medal in the Wheelchair Fencing Individual Epee. For the first time ever, the triathlon was an event in the Paralympics, and I was delighted to see Lydney’s Andy Lewis decisively win the gold medal. Both Piers and Andy can be immensely proud of their achievements.
London 2012 signalled a step change in the way disability sports are viewed around the world. Rio 2016 built on this legacy, with strong levels of attendance and viewings figures. 2.1 million tickets were sold, with more than 172,000 people visiting the Olympic Park on one day – higher than the busiest day of the Olympic Games in August. Before the Games, many commentators were concerned that Rio 2016 might not live up to the expectations from London. No such worries materialised, and it was great to see the Paralympics capture Brazil’s imagination in the same way the Olympics did.
After an unforgettable summer of sport for the British teams, we will no doubt be looking to build on our achievements in four years’ time at the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo. Both teams’ success is a testament to the fantastic funding programme which supports our Olympic and Paralympic athletes. The combination of a rigorous focus on performance and significant levels of funding allow our athletes to reach their full potential, showing the world what British athletes are capable of achieving.
Over the course of the summer, Forest of Dean competitors won two gold medals and three silver medals, and I look forward to continuing to follow the progress of all our local athletes in the future.