Mayor announces major boost for wheelchair basketball in London

20 October 2011

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson today announced plans to more than quadruple the number of wheelchair basketball clubs in the capital and bring over 7,000 new players to the game, as part of his commitment to deliver a lasting and inclusive sporting legacy from the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Currently less than ten per cent of disabled Londoners take part in regular sport and the capital has one of the lowest participation rates for wheelchair basketball in the country, with only one club competing in the national league compared with three in both Manchester and Birmingham. 

The Mayor is providing £95,000 from his Sports Legacy Fund to the Great Britain Wheelchair Basketball Association's programme to help boost participation by creating seven new clubs in London, a new training programme for officials and coaches and developing a new academy and regional centre for the sport.

Making sport in London more inclusive is a central part of the Mayor’s £30m grassroots Sports Legacy Programme of the 2012 Games.  Every project funded through the programme is committed to opening their sport up to disabled Londoners who want to try it out. 32 projects aimed at increasing participation, as well as thousands of coaching hours have already been funded by the Mayor to help thousands of disabled Londoners get fit and active.

Speaking at the Mayor's Disability Capital Conference, which brings together deaf and disabled Londoners with major stakeholders, he also threw down the gauntlet to businesses in the capital. The Mayor wants businesses to match his commitment to the Paralympic Games by getting behind the Great Britain Wheelchair Basketball teams who, despite being major medal contenders at next year’s Games, are currently without any corporate sponsorship.

The British Paralympic team had its most successful Olympics ever at the Beijing Paralympic Games in 2008, winning 102 medals including a bronze for the men’s Paralympic wheelchair basketball team. More success is predicted for London 2012, with the team is setting its sights once again on 2nd place in the medals table.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: “Boosting grassroots sports is vital to get more Londoners fit and active and disability should be no bar to being part of that legacy. This significant investment in wheelchair basketball will deliver more clubs, more coaches and more equipment to enable many more disabled Londoners to get involved and hopefully discover the Paralympians of the future.

"To ensure success at the 2012 Games, our Paralympians - and particularly our wheelchair basketball teams, which are chronically underfunded - need support. So today I’m throwing down the gauntlet to businesses across the capital, and beyond, to match my commitment to these superb athletes and stump up the cash needed to propel our Paralympic basketball teams to the peak of international competition and towards medal glory next summer in London.”

Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson, who was also speaking at the conference said: “Making sport in London more accessible will be one of the most enduring legacies of the London 2012 Games. Many disabled people across the UK feel excluded from sports so investments like this can, and will, make a huge difference.”

Tim Hollingworth, Chief Executive of Paralympics GB, said: “I am really pleased that this commitment to wheelchair basketball has been pledged today by the Mayor. At the British Paralympic Association, one of the legacies that we want the Games to leave is one of greater participation in disability sport and this support for wheelchair basketball is most welcome.”

Ade Adepitan, former wheelchair basketball Paralympian said:  “It's great news to hear that Boris Johnson is planning to boost funding for wheelchair basketball in London. Despite being our capital city, finding a club or even facilities to play wheelchair basketball in London has always been extremely difficult. When I was younger, I had to travel all over the country just to find a strong team to play for. This funding will hopefully change that and provide a real sporting legacy and might even be the catalyst to producing the first London team to win the national league championship!”

With a new wheelchair basketball club opening today in Redbridge, as part of the Great Britain Wheelchair Basketball Association's £200,000 programme to develop the sport in London, work is already well underway.

Charlie Bethel, Chief Executive, British Wheelchair Basketball said: “The programme in London will hopefully see the Capital meet its full potential in delivering opportunities for people with disabilities to play the sport. We see London as a strategic centre for wheelchair basketball, in terms of both participation and for providing the Nation with champions of the future.  With the network of clubs the funding will produce in London, it will make it the most populated city for clubs (per sq mile) in the UK or indeed the world. We would like to thank the Mayor, RT Hon. Kate Hoey and their team for their generous support.”

As well making sport more inclusive the Mayor is also committed to making that the London 2012 Games are the most inclusive and accessible ever. This includes investing more than £220 million in his 'Great Outdoors' programme to improve over 50 of the capital's public spaces, making them more accessible and more pleasant places in time for the Games.

Work starts next week on £4 million worth of improvements funded by the Mayor to make the South Bank more accessible. Working with the boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark, as well as local businesses, a two mile stretch of the riverside between the Tower and Westminster Bridges will see improved pavement layouts, better lighting and signage, increased seating, and more access ramps and handrails.

Ends

Notes to editors

1. Disability Capital is the Mayor’s annual conference bringing together senior policy makers and deaf and disabled Londoners to discuss and debate issues such as Olympic legacy, transport, housing, hate crime and volunteering. Speakers at the include Minister for Disabled People Maria Miller MP; Liz Sayce, CEO, Radar; Paralympic Gold medalist Tanni Grey Thompson; Paralympic swimmer Dervis Konuralp, and London Paralympic Games hopeful Sophia Warner; plus representatives from organisations including the police, Transport for London and the GLA

2.  For more information about the Mayor's priorities for deaf and disabled people please visit www.london.gov.uk/disabled-and-deaf-people.

3. For information about the Mayor's sports legacy projects, including London Wheelchair Basketball and the Panathlon Challenge please visit www.london.gov.uk/priorities/london-2012/mayors-sport-legacy-projects.

4.  The Mayor has committed £95,000 towards the Great British Wheelchair Basketball Association’s £200,000 participation programme to increase participation in Wheelchair Basketball in London

5.  The Mayor's £4m programme to improve the Southbank begins on Monday 24 October. City Hall is working with the boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark and key groups such as Better Bankside, Southbank Employers Group and Team London Bridge to ensure that this stretch alongside the Thames meets the needs of visitors and businesses.

6.  In addition, the Mayor’s Great Outdoors - A Manifesto for Public Space’ is supported by two practical guides, 'Better Streets' and 'Better Green and Water Spaces'. Together they set out the Mayor of London’s vision for improving public spaces in London.  This will ensure that our streets, squares, parks and green and water spaces are fit for a great world city, are enjoyed by everyone who visits them and most importantly, help improve the quality of life in the capital. They are accompanied by an implementation plan that will see £355 million invested in 80 public realm improvement projects between 2009 and the 2012 Games; funding for which comes from Transport for London, The London Development Agency and London’s boroughs as well as other sources. The measures include redesigned streets, which can be shared by both the pedestrians and vehicles and reclaimed derelict green spaces and underused waterways. The manifesto and guides have been written and produced by the Greater London Authority, London Development Agency, Design for London and Transport for London.  For further information please go to www.london.gov.uk/greatoutdoors

7. The works form a key part of the Mayor's plans to make the London 2012 Games the most inclusive and accessible ever held. A new website – inclusivelondon.com – enables people to search the accessibility features of hotels, restaurants, pubs, shops, museums and tourist attractions, the 2012 Games venues and more. The user-friendly site, which will continue to run after the Games, allows people to post reviews and give feedback about the accessibility facilities offered by a place they have visited. - Businesses are being encouraged to sign-up to register their details and advertise the accessible facilities they offer. The plan is for the site to become a first port of call for people who will be planning a trip to the capital in 2012 and beyond. For more information visit www.inclusivelondon.com

8. For more information about the British Wheelchair Basketball team please contact Stephanie Gagne on 07506642692 or email s.gagne@gbwba.org.uk.