Norfolk is geared up for the Paralympic Games

Calls have been made for the Paralympic Games to be merged with the Olympics after a charity's poll revealed that just 11 per cent of people were excited about the Paralympics.

But London 2012 officials have hit back at the criticism, saying there has been an unprecedented interest in the Games after more than one million tickets were sold in the first round of sales.

In Norfolk, there appears to be a strong interest in Paralympic sport, aided by our depth of home-grown talent: shot-putter Danny Nobbs, archer Mel Clarke and wheelchair basketball player Amy Conroy to name but a few.

There is also growing opportunity for our disabled athletes to try a range of different sports from fencing to triathlon, athletics to horse riding.

Latest figures also show that there has been increase in sports participation among disabled people in the east of England since 2007/8.

According to the Sport England study, the number of adults with a limiting disability/illness participating three times a week, has increased from 594,500 to 640,600.

Tim Hollingsworth, chief executive officer of the British Paralympic Association, said: 'No one disputes that the Paralympic Games has a crucial role to play in changing perceptions of disability.

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'The Paralympics is already the second largest sporting event in the world, and London will see it take another huge leap forward in terms of awareness and understanding.

'The brilliant success of ticket sales and the increase in media coverage indicates to me that, contrary to the survey's sample, there is a big public appetite for Paralympic sport.

'While there is an agenda in terms of attitudes and perceptions of disability, the BPA wants as many people as possible, both disabled and non-disabled, to watch the Paralympics next year because first and foremost it is a world class sporting event in its own right.'

The poll commissioned by disability charity Scope found that less than a third of disabled Britons and 18pc of the nation were planning on watching all or most Paralympic events.

A significant proportion of disabled Britons also believes that the Paralympics is condescending to disabled people, while only one in five thinks it is inclusive, according to the poll carried out ComRes.

Alice Maynard, chairwoman of Scope, said: 'Changing attitudes is about visibility and increased familiarity in everyday life but if the only disabled people that get any profile out of the Games are Paralympians then it is unlikely that the Games will do much to change people's perceptions of ordinary disabled people.

'The challenge for London 2012 is to make sure disabled people are involved not just on track and field but throughout the Games and the celebrations before and afterwards.'

Just this month, great steps have been taken in Norfolk to help youngsters be inspired by the Paralympics and to learn social and communication skills through sport.

Norwich City Community Sports Foundation, in partnership with Active Norfolk, hosted a Disability Awareness Day. The event, held at the Sportspark at the University of East Anglia, gave 120 children with disabilities from mainstream and special needs schools across Norfolk and north Suffolk the opportunity to experience different sports and enable further participation in local sports clubs and activities.

Elsewhere, youngsters at Hethersett Junior School got the chance to have a go at wheelchair basketball when Gordon Perry, winner of the first London wheelchair marathon in 1983, visited the school.

And Norwich's Amy Conroy, 18, who is in the select 12 of Team GB and hoping to compete in next year's Paralympic Games, was shortlisted for the Eastern Daily Press Active Norfolk Sports Awards.

Visually impaired para-triathlete Iain Dawson was also shortlisted for the awards and although triathlon will not be in the Paralympic Games in London 2012, it will be included in 2016.

Norwich's Tim Newenham, who coaches Paralympic shot-putter Danny Nobbs, said: 'The Paralympic Games is really a celebration and inspiration for many people and it's really the cr�me de la cr�me of people who have faced difficult circumstances and have decided to put their heart and soul into something really positive and to excel.

'It's true performance and shows that no matter what the obstacles are, they can overcome them with sheer will, determination and commitment. And like any athlete, the Paralympians plan very carefully every detail of their path to success.'

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