A cheerleader, an athlete and an artist are among the first disabled people chosen to take part in this summer’s Paralympic torch relay.
LOCOG, London 2012’s organising committee, this week announced the names of more than 300 people – both disabled and non-disabled – who have been chosen to carry the Paralympic torch from Stoke Mandeville to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford in August.
Although LOCOG has not yet been able to say how many of those chosen are disabled people, among those picked so far are:
Rick Rodgers, from Orpington, south-east London, a former competitive cheerleader and physical theatre performer who, after becoming disabled in 2008, returned to the sport of competitive cheerleading as part of a unique stunt duo, and also performs with the disability circus arts group Cirque Nova.
Charlotte Cox, from Cambridge, who won four titles in the International Athletic Association for Persons with Down Syndrome championships in Mexico in 2010.
Disabled artist Susan Williams, from Lambeth, south London, who has championed other disabled artists in her work with Arts Council England.
Doctor Jane Atkinson, from Newcastle, who featured in the BBC reality series Beyond Boundaries, and wanted to take part in the relay because the success of Britain’s Paralympians was “a great source of pride for our nation”.
Patricia Marjoram, who is 81 years old, from Little Ellingham, Norfolk, and edits the national magazine of the Society for Disabled Artists, runs a local art group and organises an annual art holiday for disabled people.
Gareth Burton, from Coleraine, Northern Ireland, who has campaigned to improve the accessibility of public facilities, and wanted to take part in the relay to show that “just because I’m in a wheelchair I can do things that others enjoy”.
And Guy Harris, from Crampmoor, Hampshire, who set up DisabledGear.com, a website which allows disabled people to buy and sell second-hand equipment.
In all, 580 disabled and non-disabled “torchbearers” will carry the flame in teams of five, with each team covering about half a mile.
Three London 2012 sponsors – Sainsbury’s, Lloyds TSB and BT – have each chosen about 140 people to take part in the relay from thousands of public nominations, with the other 150 or so to be selected by the International Paralympic Committee, LOCOG, the British Paralympic Association and other London 2012 sponsors.
The aim was to find teams and individuals from across the UK who have demonstrated Paralympic values.
Lord [Sebastian] Coe, LOCOG’s chair, said: “Whether they have been together for years or have been brought together around a common story, they have all demonstrated how they are living the Paralympic values of courage, determination, inspiration and equality.”
Sainsbury’s was criticised last month for using a panel of four non-disabled employees to pick its torch-bearers, a decision described by a leading disabled activist as “patronising” and “disrespectful”.