Peter Millett

Peter Millett

Ambassador to Libya, Tripoli

23rd August 2012 Tunis, Tunisia

It's about sport, not disability

Next week sees the start of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, two weeks of great sport between athletes from all over the world.  It is the second largest sporting event in the world, an extraordinary celebration of elite sporting ability.

Maybe some people will say “So what?” and turn off.  Surely nothing can match the excitement of the “real thing” of the Olympics?  Such as the power of Usain Bolt winning his three gold medals?  Or the spectacular opening and closing ceremonies?

Those who believe that the Paralympics are a poor relation of the Olympic Games are wrong.  They are a natural extension of the Olympics.  Those competing are as glorious an example of human sporting endeavour as the best Olympic athletes.  Whether it is wheelchair rugby, basketball or tennis the sportsmen and women have trained long and hard and have the same competitive desire to take part and do their best.  Indeed, the TV channel promoting the Paralympics has marketed the Games under the slogan “Meet the Superhumans”.
This year’s Paralympics will be the biggest ever: 4,300 athletes from 160 countries including a record number of women athletes.  Over 2.3 million tickets have been sold and the spectators will benefit from the same smooth arrangements of the organisers, the same creativity in presenting the sporting events and the same infectious enthusiasm of the volunteers.

At every stage, the planning and delivery of the Olympics and the Paralympics have been fully integrated with both events given equal priority and attention.  The stadia and the facilities were designed with disabled people in mind.  This joint strategy brings disabled sportsmen on to the same level as their able-bodied colleagues, a far cry from the first Paralympic Games held after the 1948 London Olympics for a few war veterans at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

But the Paralympics is more than a sporting spectacle.  It is about creating a powerful legacy for disabled people worldwide by inspiring people to recognise that disabled people should not be judged by what they can’t do, but by what they can.  It is about harnessing the skills and potential of everyone in society to the benefit of us all.

Fine words and worthy aspirations.  What does this mean in practice?  It means improving transport so that disabled people can travel on the underground and on buses.  It means boosting sporting opportunities to overcome the barriers preventing disabled people from participating in sport.  And it is about awareness: so that we celebrate the achievement of people who want to be a full part of their society.

Jordan has sent a strong team to London. When I saw them off two weeks ago with Prince Raad, who has been an inspiring champion for the disabled in Jordan, the pride of the athletes in going to represent their country was palpable. Jordanian athletes won medals in the last four Paralympic Games including in table tennis and weightlifting.  Let’s hope they do well this time.  And that the efforts of the athletes are celebrated widely throughout the country.

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About Peter Millett

Peter arrived in Tunis on 23 June 2015 to take up his post as
Ambassador to Libya.
Previously he was British Ambassador to Jordan from February 2011 to June 2015.
He was High Commissioner to Cyprus from 2005 – 2010.
He was Director of Security in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
from 2002-2005, dealing with all aspects of security for British
diplomatic missions overseas.
From 1997-2001 he served as Deputy Head of Mission in Athens.
From 1993-96 Mr Millett was Head of Personnel Policy in the FCO.
From 1989-93 he held the post of First Secretary (Energy) in the UK
Representative Office to the European Union in Brussels, representing
the UK on all energy and nuclear issues.
From 1981-1985 he served as Second Secretary (Political) in Doha.
Peter was born in 1955 in London.  He is married to June Millett and
has three daughters, born in 1984, 1987 and 1991.  
His interests include his family, tennis and travel.

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