Tehran -13 may 2017
SIR PHILIP CRAVEN, The IPC president delivered a historical and outstanding speech in the gathering attended by a number of I.R.IRAN sport officials, I.R.IRAN NPC board members ,national federations presidents and some of Paralympian medalists.in this meeting held In the ministry of sport and youth, SIR PHILIP CRAVEN referred to the long way the global Paralympic movement has passed so far and considering the huge and wonderful achievements by Iranian NPC, he emphasized that Iran will continue to be a forefront and leading NPC in the future, please follow the full text of IPC president speech:
Good morning/afternoon everybody, it’s fantastic to be back here in Iran, a country that is very close to my heart and one that my wife and I have enjoyed visiting for the last 22 years.
As many of you may know this September at the IPC General Assembly in Abu Dhabi, I will step down as IPC President having served the maximum number of terms. The IPC membership will elect a new IPC Governing Board and we will learn the identity of only the third President in the history of the IPC and the Paralympic Movement.
With my 16-year tenure coming to an end, I have been invited today to give an overview on the development of the Paralympic Movement since 2001 and talk about the position of NPC Iran in the Movement at the world and Asian levels.
When I was elected as IPC President in Athens, Greece, in December 2001 the IPC was still in its infancy having only been formed in 1989. It was still a fairly fledgling organisation and my predecessor Bob Steadward had done a good job in getting the IPC to the point where it was.
One of my immediate priorities when I took over was to change how the organisation did business. Working with the then 10 strong management team in Bonn we needed to develop the foundations of the organisation in order to make it more appealing for commercial partners to get involved, whilst at the same time providing greater value to the IPC membership.
Within my first few years a new vision “To enable Paralympic athletes to achieve sporting excellence and inspire and excite the world” was developed and significant structural and governance changes were made to the IPC.
I think the easiest way to measure the development of the Paralympic Movement in the last 16 years is through the growth of the Paralympic Games. The Games offer so many metrics that highlight progress – numbers of participating athletes and countries, TV audience and spectator figures, athletic performance and impact on society to name but a few.
The first Paralympic Games that I attended as President were the Salt Lake City Winter Games in 2002. A total of 416 athletes from 36 countries took part in four sports and the only TV coverage was highlights packages offered by a handful of broadcasters after the end of the Games.
Athens 2004 was my first summer Games. They featured 3,808 athletes from 135 countries who competed in 19 sports. A total of 617 hours of coverage from the Games was broadcast to a cumulative audience of 1.85 billion people, whilst there were 850,000 spectators in the venues.
In terms of progress I think Salt Lake City and Athens now act as good benchmarks to measure how far we have come as a Movement.
The Beijing 2008 Games marked the point when the world stood up and properly took notice of the Paralympics.
The Games were sensational; remarkable sport was complimented with spectacular ceremonies. A record 3,951 athletes from 146 countries took part in 472 medal events spanning 20 sports. TV pictures were beamed to a cumulative TV audience of 3.8 billion people in 80 countries, a huge step forward from Athens four years previously.
One of the stand-out features was their impact on Chinese society. We’d sensed it at Barcelona 92, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004, but Beijing 2008 was the first Games where we truly recognised the transformational capabilities of the Paralympics.
In the seven years leading up to the Opening Ceremony 1 billion RMB – equivalent to the previous 25 years of investment – was spent making 14,000 facilities accessible throughout China. New legislation was passed on building accessible facilities, using the IPC’s own guidelines as a blue print.
Massive levels of investment, combined with outstanding performances from Para athletes, transformed Chinese society’s perceptions of people with an impairment.
The Games gave those who had up until then been excluded from society the confidence to leave their homes and be part of their local communities. Beijing 2008 enriched and mobilised the lives of millions of people to such an extent that an official post Games report said: “Before the Paralympics a person with an impairment was a beggar on the street, but after the Games he or she was a long jumper, a wheelchair basketball player or a footballer.”
The Beijing Paralympic Games made a huge impression on Lord Sebastian Coe, the President of London 2012.
He recognised that the Paralympics still had significant growth potential and took several steps to not just match Beijing 2008 but take the Games into a new dimension.
London 2012 attracted a record 4,237 athletes from 164 countries. A record 2.7 million tickets were sold, 95 per cent of capacity, ensuring full venues for athletes competing in all 20 sports.
The Games were broadcast in 115 countries drawing a cumulative TV audience of 3.8 billion. They were the first digital Games and on social media #Paralympics was the year’s biggest trending sport event on Twitter knocking #PremierLeague and #Olympics into second and third places respectively.
Ahead of their coverage of the Games, British broadcaster Channel 4 invested in their biggest ever marketing campaign. They worked closely with the IPC and London 2012 to help reposition Paralympic sport in the public’s eyes as high performance sport.
They created a stunning campaign around a group of leading British Para athletes who they labelled the Superhumans. Set to a pounding soundtrack, the advert presented the back stories of how Paralympians come to be and showcased the intense training regimes they undertake to become high performance athletes.
The advert, which won multiple international awards, arguably did more to change peoples’ views of Paralympic sport in 60 seconds than the last 10 years of marketing activity combined.
The result was record breaking audiences. Most days Channel 4 enjoyed the biggest audience share of all the main UK channels and overall their 150 hours of coverage reached 39.9 million people – over 69 per cent of the UK population.
In addition, stories from the Games made the front and back pages of all national newspapers and the widespread coverage led to seismic shifts in attitudes and perceptions.
One in three British adults – equivalent to 20 million people – said they changed their views of people with an impairment as a result of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
The Games were a perfect storm with all the planets aligning at the right time.
Not only did they deliver the widespread media and broadcast coverage the Paralympics had always craved and deserved, but we were helped by every single major Games sponsor activating their rights. Everyone bought in to our desire to reposition Paralympic sport as high performance sport.
As with previous Games, athletic performance stepped up yet another gear and by the time Coldplay, Rihanna and Jay-Z performed at the Closing Ceremony, London 2012 had created a blueprint for all future Paralympic Games.
Sochi 2014 also had a significant impact on the Paralympic Movement and on Russian society. Having turned down the opportunity to host the 1980 Paralympics, Sochi’s election as host city in 2007 led – for the first time – to Russian authorities paying attention to the issue of inclusion, and creating accessible environments for all.
New legislation was passed at the highest levels of Government, and the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee created a barrier-free infrastructure, ensuring that everything built for the Games was accessible for all.
Sochi is now a blueprint for the rest of Russia, with many cities using what was created for the Games as a guide for furthering their own accessibility.
The lives of millions of Russians will be permanently improved and enriched as a result of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.
Having had no live coverage in 2002 at the Salt Lake City Games, Sochi 2014 benefitted from broadcasters showing more hours of coverage than previous editions. The Games were broadcast to a cumulative global TV audience of nearly 2.1 billion people in more than 55 countries and territories, a Paralympic record for a Winter Games.
Ahead of Rio 2016, Brazil was subject to the most difficult economic and political situations in the run up to the Games and this had a huge impact on the overall organisation.
Despite the unprecedented challenges we faced, the whole Paralympic Movement overcame them to produce an amazing Paralympic Games considering the circumstances.
It’s in the Paralympic DNA to see challenges and barriers as opportunities to do things differently and to innovate, and that’s what we did to ensure Latin America’s first Paralympics were successful.
The Carioca sport fans were unbelievable; 2.15 million spectators turned out and I have never heard a noise like it at a Paralympics before. Their amazing passion for sport fused with astonishing athlete performances produced the “People’s Games”.
We mobilised different generations of families to attend the Games and on the first Saturday of the Games we had nearly 170,000 fans in the park, more than at any point during the Olympic Games.
Arguably, Rio 2016 did more for the Paralympic Movement than London 2012 and showed to the world that no matter where the Paralympics are held they can be successful. Everyone expected Beijing 2008 and London 2012 to be great, but few expected Rio to deliver what it did.
Although Rio 2016 was hugely successful, we were greatly saddened on the penultimate day of competition when Iranian cyclist Bahman Golbarnezhad was tragically killed in an accident during the road race. He will forever remain in our thoughts and our deep sympathies remain with his wife, children and friends following his sad passing. His photograph was featured during the Sports Industry Awards in London on 27th April as one of the world’s sporting greats that had passed away during 2016.
The Rio 2016 Games themselves were broadcast in 154 countries reaching a record cumulative TV audience of 4.1 billion people. A further 1.3 billion people were reached on social media and the IPC website received more visitors during the year than the last three years combined.
The Games were the best ever in terms of athletic performance, and I’d like to give you a few examples of where Paralympic performance is now at and highlight how far athletes have come over the last decade or so.
The top four finishers in the men’s 1,500m for visually impaired runners in Rio, all finished in times quicker than the Rio 2016 Olympic champion over the same distance!
As you know Iranian powerlifter Siamand Rahman became the first Paralympian to bench press 300kg, eventually lifting 310kg. At Athens 2004, the gold medal winner in the men’s over 100kg class managed 237.5kg, 72.5kg less than what Rahman lifted last September.
Cuba’s Omara Durand cemented her place as the world’s fastest woman Paralympian, clocking a stunning world record of 11.40 seconds for the 100m T12 final. Her time is almost 1 second quicker than the time that won gold in the same class in 2004.
The huge leap forward in athletic performances over the last 16 years is down to the work of the National Paralympic Committees. Many National Paralympic Committees now benefit from a level of funding that ensures top athletes can be full-time, taking advantage of the best training regimes and latest sport science.
It is more than fair to say that fundamental to the growth of the Paralympic Games and the Paralympic Movement in the last 16 years has been the IPC’s growing relationship with the IOC.
The IPC would not be in the position it enjoys today, if it was not for the IOC. Not only do they provide the IPC with continued financial support, but the practice of “one bid, one city” enables the Paralympics to take place in the same stunning venues as the Olympics, providing a perfect platform for our Games to grow.
Away from the Games, the last 16 years, has seen the IPC membership grow from 135 National Paralympic Committees in 2001 to 178 NPCs today. We have worked hard to not only increase the Paralympic Movement’s footprint but make our members stronger, more self-sustainable and financially viable.
The Agitos Foundation that was launched in 2012 has done much fantastic work in this area, not only making our members stronger as organisations but also stronger in terms of athlete recruitment and development.
I think this is best reflected in the fact that a record 83 countries, more than ever before, won at least one medal at Rio 2016. Five countries won their first Paralympic gold medals last September, whilst a further four made the podium for the first time ever.
As the IPC membership has grown in size, so has the IPC workforce based in Bonn, Germany. What used to be a small team of 10 people when I took over as IPC President is now a small army of 100 full-time employees who are experts in their respective fields.
The IPC is now a much more professional outfit, an organisation that has matured greatly, and one that is leading the Paralympic Movement in the right direction.
People like to do business with us. We provide our members with great value and support and as an organisation we now boast a stunning portfolio of commercial partners such as Toyota, Samsung, Panasonic, BP and Allianz to name but a few.
Overall, I think this September I will leave the IPC in a far stronger position than when I joined it.
In terms of legacy, in 2001 the IPC was seen as a disability organisation. Today we have moved away from that and are now regarded as a very well run and respected international sports organisation with a strong track record for staging major events that deliver high performance sport and also deliver social change through sport.
In the Paralympic Games we have the world’s number one sporting event for driving social inclusion and through Para sport we are helping to change the world.
The progress we have made is immeasurable and the IPC’s job is made so much easier when we have strong National Paralympic Committees such as the one we have here in Iran.
I first visited this country in 1995 when I was President of the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation. Together with Horst Strokhendl, the man who developed wheelchair basketball’s player classification system, I held clinics in Tehran providing training to players, coaches, referees and classifiers.
I was impressed with what I experienced back then and have been equally impressed on each of my return visits. Today, the National Paralympic Committee of the Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the leading Para sport nations in Asia and is a National Paralympic Committee that is greatly respected around the world.
Huge credit for this transformation needs to go its President, Mahmoud Khosravi Vafa supported by Secretary General, Masoud Ashrafi for the work they have done in building the Movement and momentum here in Iran.
You only have to look at the medals table from previous Paralympic Games to see the outstanding progress Iran is continuing to make in Paralympic sport.
At Athens 2004, Iran finished 24th in the medals table and was the fifth best performing country from Asia.
Compare this to London 2012 and Rio 2016 where Iran firmly established itself as the second best performing Asian nation behind China, a country that has topped the medals table at the last four Paralympics.
Iran now boasts some of the biggest global stars in Paralympic sport; the performances of powerlifter Siamand Rahman, archer Zarah Nemati, shooter Sareh Javanmardidodmani and sitting volleyball player Morteza Mehrzadselakjani amongst others at Rio 2016 made global headlines.
Such is Iran’s progress in recent years that I would not be surprised if the country broke into the top 10 of the medals table at Tokyo 2020 or in 2024.
Initiatives such as National Paralympic Week which each October attracts tens of thousands of participants have helped increase the size of the talent pool and it is fantastic to see the level of support the Iranian government gives to the National Paralympic Committee. To have such strong Para-sport structures in each of Iran’s regions has also been fundamental in this development.
In addition to the progress Iran has made in producing medal winning athletes, I also think the National Paralympic Committee should be congratulated for what it has done to increase female participation.
At the Seoul 1988 Paralympics the Iranian team featured 36 men and no women. Compare this with Rio 2016 where the team featured 23 women, the sum of the last five Games from 1996 to 2012 combined.
One of catalysts behind the significant growth in female participation has been the success of archer Zarah Nemati. By becoming the first Iranian woman to win an Olympic or Paralympic gold medal with her success at London 2012, she has inspired a whole generation of women to take up sport in this country.
Since 2012 her profile has sky rocketed; she has spoken at the United Nations in New York and even competed at the Rio 2016 Olympics where she was Iran’s flagbearer during the Opening Ceremony.
Nemati, who retained her Paralympic gold last September, together with Sareh Javanmardidodmani, Iran’s first female gold medallist in shooting, are now role models for every Iranian woman. I am sure that thanks to their achievements they will inspire others to get active and, who knows, become Paralympic champions of the future.
Although I will be sad to step down as IPC President this September, I am proud at what I, together with the IPC Governing Board, IPC Management team and every single IPC member have achieved.
We have come a long way together in a relatively short space of time but what I am fully confident about is that the best years for the Paralympic Movement lie ahead of it, not behind it, and NPC Iran will be at the forefront for many years to come.