Leader comment: Paralympic success lies in the people they inspire

The Paralympics GB team finished second in the Rio 2016 medal table with a total of 147 medals, 64 of which were gold. Picture Getty Images

The Paralympics GB team finished second in the Rio 2016 medal table with a total of 147 medals, 64 of which were gold. Picture Getty Images

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For the Scottish athletes, for the British athletes, and for the games themselves, the parlaympics in Brazil have been a fantastic success. It is important we celebrate that for many reasons.

It is worth just dwelling on the numbers to begin with. The Scots competing as part of team GB won 17 medals - easily beating the Scottish total from the London games in 2102 of 11. And although all deserve our praise and respect it is worth highlighting the outstanding achievements of a few: sprinter Libby Clegg was crowned a double Paralympic champion after gold medals in the T11 100m and 200m, 16-year-old Maria Lyle also impressed on the track with three medals, the same number won by swimmer Andrew Mullen. and tennis player Gordon Reid had further success with singles gold and doubles silver.

But the figures for Team GB are also impressive, taking overall 147 medals of which 64 were gold, finishing second in the medals table behind China and setting 49 Paralympic and 27 world records. Its true the absence of Russia probably had a part to play but that is not any reflection on the athletes’ performance.

And the games themselves have turned out to be a winner too. Given the economic and political turmpoil in Brazil this summer there were real concerns for the paralympics. There were financial cuts, facilities were downgraded and tales of woe over volunteer shortfalls and poor ticket sales dominated the countdown to the opening ceremony and there were reports they would become the “neglected games”. Not a bit of it.

In total, more than 4,300 athletes from 159 countries competed in the games, with almost 1,500 medals distributed to sportsmen and women from 82 countries in five continents.

But of great significance is that the Brazilian public rallied to support the games and ticket sales hit 2.1 million.

Now, quite rightly come the parades so the athletes can get the recognition that is due, with parades in both Manchester and London down south.

Here in Scotland the criticised event at Heriot Watt university - the audience was limited to 400 people - has been bolstered with a public event in Edinburgh’s Festival Square on September 28.

But the really important figure of the paralympics will probably never be known: just how many people have been inspired by the athletes overcoming adversity to take up a sport or make a change in their own lives.

The paralympics are an awe-inspiring display of determination, of commitment, of pure strength of spirit. They are a shining example of what can be achieved if people have the desire to test themsleves, to challenge the accepted norms of what is possible, not just people who are less able, but all of us.

It is important that these games are seen for what they are, and that the huge impact they have had on the lives of millions is not taken for granted or allowed to lose any of the momentum they have now so painstakingly built up.

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