Key success factors

Today I visited once again the Aquatic Centre at the Olympic park. Two reasons behind this decision – to experience once again the incredible atmosphere there and to try and overcome the personal feelings watching the most disabled athletes. Again there were amazing competitions, beaten records and lot of admiration of the swimmers. The winners are from the known countries 🙂 plus Brazil – greetings to my Brazilian colleague.

As I mentioned yesterday, Ukraine is making really a great Paralympics and they also won medals today at the pool. But it is not just a coincidence. There is huge preparation and all media here are commenting it. What is needed in order country as Ukraine – not a EU member, with lot of political internal issues, not a rich one (in terms of GDP per capita), historically not paying attention to disabled people to create such a dream team? Below is the summary of the key success factors for creating champions and role models (taken from some media in UK):
1. Leadership – there is a man called Valeriy Sushkevych – the founder and president of the Paralympic Committee of Ukraine and two-time disabled swimming champion in the Soviet Union. This man has the power as member of the Ukrainian parliament and the creativity and determination to change the status quo
2. Organization (at educational level) – a system known as Invasport is created. There is now at least one school in every region of Ukraine dedicated to introducing a new generation of disabled children to everything from volleyball to athletics and swimming to powerlifting. For most, the experience gives them confidence, friends and an element of physical rehabilitation. A select few become tomorrow’s champions. Today, this system is recognised as one of the best in the world.
3. Training facilities – the flagship hub for Ukraine’s Paralympic movement is a training centre on the Black Sea coast in Yevpatoria, Crimea. This state-of-the-art base is built on the site of a former Communist youth camp, and now has some of the best facilities in Europe for both disabled and non-disabled athletes.
4. Funding (highly related with leadership) – the Government provides most of the funding, although additional income is generated by hiring out rooms at the training centre to holidaymakers and those seeking to use the facilities for rehabilitation. There are only two sponsors (private companies) who “share the same values – freedom and willpower”.
5. Marketing – the government is making a concerted effort with domestic media to promote the team’s successes at London 2012. “We have to talk to our media which doesn’t cover the Paralympics enough. ..Change will come with time because there are heroes in Olympics, but there are also heroes in Paralympics. They are the pride of the nation and everyone should know about them.” – minister of sports said
6. Incentives – the Ukrainian government will award substantial prize money to medal-winners in both the Olympics and Paralympics.

The result is: 150 qualified athletes at the Games. 74 medals (30 gold) and 4-th place in the country classification after China, GB and Russia.

Words of one of their best athletes who has a from dwarfism – “Of course, through sport I’ve achieved a lot. Everything. Before sport I had practically nothing. Actually, not practically – literally I had nothing…Now I have the attention from my team-mates and from my friends outside sport. I’m more respected now and have official state honours. I’m not a nobody.”

See some pictures of the Olympic park by night.

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Another glorious night

The things are getting more and more intense and I could not manage them properly, so some updates are coming later. Today was another victorious night at London 2012 Paralympics. I visited for the first time the Aquatic Centre at the Olympic park. Very interesting architecture and construction. The two “tribunes” from both sides of the pool are so steep that you can not see the last row. There is no visual contact between the two sides, between them is the ceiling of the pool, so the audience can see just the water and the sportsmen. There is a great acoustic and the public is fantastic – cheering everyone, applauding each record. And the records are beaten at every new final. The swimmers from the highest disability classes are really unbelievable. They can not walk, need support to enter the pool but reach such a speed in the water. I remembered that our great olympic champion Tanya Bogomilova is teaching impaired children in swimming. I wish some of them to qualify for some of the next Games….otherwise we will continue listening only “God save the Queen”. Actually it was not only Team GB – there are a lot of excellent swimmers from Australia, New Zealand, Ukraine, Russia, China, USA, Netherlands. These are the countries with the biggest teams in the Games. There is a very interesting story about the Ukrainian Paralympic Movement that I will tell in the next posts.

I watched today the end of the Football 5-a (“Blind Football”) match Brazil-Argentina. You can imagine the emotions at and around the field. They just explode when the game is stopped. The match is played at full silence and only during the stops the public cheers the teams. The football players are either absolutely blind or play with something like “domino” on the eyes to ensure no visibility. Only goal keepers can see. The ball has bells inside, so the players understand it’s position by the sound,fight for it, take it, lead it and shot it at the door. There is a guide (he can see) behind the door who shouts to the players about the position of the other ones. They have unique orientation – the players know at each moment where they are on the field – sometimes they run towards the side walls of the field and stop few centimeters before crashing over it. The technique of leading and keeping the ball is terrific. The match finished 0:0 and there were penalties. One of the blind players of Brazil managed to score a goal (the door is like a handball one) and Brazil qualified for the final. There were lot of Argentinean tears afterwards…Sorry for them.

The end of the sport-day was Athletics. Not a single empty space at the stadium – even in the official sectors. The GB team runners rather fly than run in front of this public. Every time there is a GB runner in the final, he manages to win the medal. The traditional heroes – David Weir and Hannah Cockcroft won their races as expected. But the great sensation was Jonnie Peacock who won against Oscar Pistorious, Oliveira (200 m winners) and the famous USA runner Richard Browne. I believe that the audience shout after this win was heard kilometers far away. Tomorrow I have to cut this final and upload it separately – I bet it will beat the previous sensation…

Dancing with the horses

Today, it will be a short update. The change of schedules, the sports emotions and the nice evening with a friend overwhelmed me.

I will start with the best news – Bulgaria has a silver medal tonight won by Stela Eneva in Discus Throw F58. Excellent performance! 2 out of 8 athletes already have medals. We are proud with these guys!

I visited today the Equestrian at Greenwich park. In Paralympics there in only one style of horse riding competition – it it dressage. In other words – dancing with horses. There is a special music going on and the horse managed by the rider walks and dances on the floor. The performance is measured in several categories – rhythm, grace, timing. I watched the most disabled class of athletes. The winner of course was from Team GB – Sophie Christiansen who is suffering from cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair all the time. There was a quite mixture of feelings when watching it – a great satisfaction when seeing the joy and happiness that this lady experiences, a great respect to the will and determination. But still I can not overcome the pity and sympathy that I feel while watching such competitions. Congratulations for all rides at the Greenwich park. It is amazing what a contact they have created with the horses, how they balance and manage these extremely beautiful creatures.

I was discussing the rules, criteria for evaluation, etc. with two ladies sitting next to me. Then the ladies turned around and started discussing the Paralympics with a man sitting behind me. I turned around and saw the badge – the UK minister of Sports and Olympics Hugh Robertson. He shared that he is extremely satisfied by the games and proud that it is not only arena given to disabled athletes to demonstrate their skills, these are already real sports with tough competition, preparation, records. I was very surprised how the minister is sitting alone, without assistants and guards and ready to get in talk with normal people. Some photos are attached below.

The importance of the Games

Today I expected less people in the Olympic park as it is a working day and some children start school. But there were as many people as during the weekend. The stadium was full, there were no available seats in the venues, the people with daily passes were waiting for hours in queues for entering the games. So I was asking myself – why these people are here, what is so important in these Games?

Of course the games are important for the athletes who have their needs to compete, win, challenge themselves and receive acknowledgment for their efforts. I was watching different sports and saw several different kinds of emotions – from sorrow to glory and extreme proud.

The games are also important for the families of the athletes. Yesterday I saw a Canadian lady with T-shirt “I am a proud mother of Canadian Paralympic athlete”. Few days ago I was traveling in the train with a family from Australia that came in the games to watch their daughter-in-law who is a captain of the Australian women goalball team. They were so proud with her successes. Wish her luck!

The games are also important for the other disabled people who a encouraged to challenge themselves either in sports or in other fields. There are so many disabled people in the Olympic park who enjoy the games and cheer the competitions. I believe this is really a great entertainment for them.

But the games are also important for the British nation who needs a unifying cause in these difficult crisis times. They have their Team GB that brings so many remarkable moments to the public. I have never seen in my life such a support. Children & adults dressed in Team GB colors, wearing all kinds of accessories demonstrating their contribution to the nation victories. The games are important also for the relationship between the officials and the people. You should trust the ones that managed to organize something of this scale and to ensure its security.

The games are important for the 70 000 volunteers who are willing to become a part of this. I was talking today with 11 years girl that explained me that this happens “once in a life and you have to share it”. Most probably it will happen at least one more time in her life (as London has been a host of previous Games) but I doubt that it will happen in our lives – Bulgaria to become a host of Olympic/Paralympic games. I understood from the mother of this kid, that there were additionally 190 000 volunteer applications who were not approved. It is very interesting what is the motivation of all these volunteers – I will ask the colleagues in the next days.

One more thing – the games are extremely important for the education of the thousands of children who visited them. This is the way to develop tolerance and respect towards disabled people. I wish more Bulgarian kids see some moments of these Games. We need it.

The big sensation

Today we had the biggest sensation in Athletics. The 200 m run for T43&T44 (one leg-amputee and two leg amputee) was not won by Oscar Pistorius. The 20 year old Brazilian Alan Fonteles Cardoso  OLIVEIRA made the sensation with incredible run in the last 50-60 m. You can see the uploaded by me video at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9Wlp1sTnoY. As you can see & hear …this was not expected by anybody here. Some kind of scandal  followed the event – Oscar Pistorius claimed that the blades of the Brazilian athlete are longer than normal and gave him an advantage. The brazilian guy answered that he did not expected such a reaction from his idol.

Oscar Pistorios is really an idol in the Paralympics. He is something as an “ambassador” of the Games, the link between the Olympics and Paralympics, a motivator and role model of thousands of disabled athletes, the best advertisement of the Paralympics. Oscar was the one who made it possible disabled athletes to compete with the non-disabled ones, he sued the Olympic committee to cancel the decision that the blades gaveve him an advantage in the run (you can see details about his mission in the wiwkipedia).

This story has several view points. One is about the ability of the live icons to accept the defeat. There are rules set by the International Paralympic Committee and these rules were followed by all athletes. So, it’s a question of honor & dignity to accept that a follower will beat the leaderr.

There is also another point of view – for the responsibility of IPC to set the right rules. The Paralympic games are much more complex than the standard sports. There is such a huge variety of disabilities, so it is extremely difficult to put them in classification in order to make fair competition and to compare the results. If there is a big number of classes, then the number of competitions increases proportionally and it is difficult for organization. So, IPC created re-factoring of the results in some disciplines (e.g. cycling). This approach has other disadvantages – you can not understand the winner just watching the race, there is no direct competition, you feel that the winner is decided behind the scene.  So, it is really complicated. Another aspect is about the technical devices used in the races – wheelchairs, blades, carts. The technologies are also competing, so the rich countries always have access to the best devices for training and competition (especially the one with strong government support of the sports for disabled). Is this fair competition then? A lot of questions….

My proud for the day – I managed to cut the 200 m race and upload it in youtube (we are usually recoding and uploading the Athletics sessions as one file). The video was watched 8 000 times in 10 hours.

Athletics – *the queen of sports” started

Sorry for the day without update. The are so many things to be shared but I was getting ill and had to take measures. The only non-managed element of this event is the weather. Shame for the all weather forecasting sites including accuweather – instead of the promised 20 degrees it was 8 on 31.08 night. I was not prepared for the winter, so had to do urgently some shopping.

Of course it was compensated today. First visited event was the morning athletics session. I entered the stadium during the victory ceremony of men 200 m. run T42 won by Richard Whitehead (GB). 80 000 people were singing the GB anthem. I wished I was a British at this moment. After that there were men 1500 m run heats. The leaders took the distance for about 4 minutes. But there was an athlete from Djibouti who took the first round for 3 minutes. All of us thought that he will collapse after the first 400 m. But he continued running one more and another one….and another one. The 80 000 were standing and shouting and applauding. Some with tears in the eyes (you can imagine that I was among these ones). What a spirit, what determination and strength this one showed. He did it for more than 11 minutes and was ready to continue if the referees did not stopped him. Every single cell of his body was dedicated to this race.

After that I visited Goalball – the special Paralympic sport for blinded people. It is played in absolutely silence as the players understand the ball position by the sound of the bells in the ball. One of the players throws the ball with full power against the door of the opposite team and the three players from the defending team toss on the floor to save the ball. The match was Sweden vs Canada. I was supporting Sweden (some friends living there…). So, we won 🙂 It was very interesting that I met there the second lady from the flight to London that was traveling for the Paralympics. She is from Varna and is a referee in Goalball. So she explained me that this sport is practiced in Bulgaria and we even have a national team (still not competing in the Games) Very good news and wish them luck to qualify for Rio’2016.

After the Goalball I visited football 7a – a football version for disabled. The technical director of  the federation set next to me and explained me some interesting things. Currently this game is played on the summer hockey field – artificial wet flooring but the federation is thinking to change it in order to make this sport more popular (I believe this flooring is very expensive one). The match was Ukraine vs USA. No intrigue there. The Ukrainians were playing like the national football team of Sweden vs the Bulgarian one on the EU 2004 (and some other matches also). Even the result was similar – 10:0. But I am thinking that these Ukrainians will easily defeat our “football nationals”.

The good news for Bulgaria – we have our first medal. Radoslav Zlatanov won bronze in the long jump with a personal best 6.81 m. Very well done Rado. Several record were beaten today. Among them – the superhuman Oskar Pistorious.

Opening Ceremony

It was incredible, impressive, unbelievable. I was wondering what will be the message about the disabled people – tolerance, integration, acceptance? No, it was much stronger. It was “I Am What I Am”, an unique part of this universe and my place in it  is as important as yours. Everybody has a potential and only with creativity, spirit and knowledge we can make this world a better place. The words of Sebastian Coe “Sport is about what you can do, what you can achieve, the limits you can reach, the barriers you can break. Sport shows what is possible. Sport refuses to take no for an answer” explained why this event is so important for the world. The most remarkable moments: the appearance of  Stephen Hawking – the most famous physicist of our times; the presence of the Queen and the royal family (sitting about 20 rows far away from my place); the flying athletes, some of them in wheelchairs; the  dancing bird; the Bulgarian team of 8 athletes – wish them luck!; Oscar Pistorius – the most famous disabled athlete who competed in the South Africa Olympic team; the Team GB fanatically applauded by 70 000 people; the torch arrival from the space; the fireworks; the flag of IPC escorted by the GB wheelchair basketball team; the thousands of volunteers who cheered the public. It was one of the unforgettable moments in the live. I am proud and thankful that I was there.

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First working day

It’s impressive how the transport is organized. The are signs everywhere and another group of volunteers guiding the guests to the Olympic venues. The security checks at the entrance of the Olympic park are done by people in military uniforms. Another software of Atos checks the accreditation – the Atos logo is at every computer here. It took me about 40 minutes to find the working place within IBC. The building is huge and is now rebranded for the Paralympics. There are several booths everywhere with the famous Atos software for the official results.

Finally I found our office, located next to the BBC one. Ingo and Clara – our coordinators introduced me to the rest of the team and explained the idea of the Paralympicsport.tv project. We are going to provide 5 channels live stream of several events at the official site of the International Paralympic Committee (paralympic.org), that will be used also by some broadcasters all over the world. The other task is to split the live video stream into files and upload them into the Paralympicsport.tv channel of YouTube with all relevant titles, tags, etc. This will be done by our subteam of the “uploaders” in almost real time, so we have to watch the games carefully in order to catch the start and end time of each event. There are also other roles in the team – camera men, editors, commentators, technicians, etc. The team is really international – colleagues from Hong Kong (volunteers from Atos), Brazil, Maxico, Spain, Germany, UK…maybe I miss some country. So, it seems that it will be really interesting.

Arrival in London

The arrival in London was on time. The first accreditation office was already in the transfer zone before the passport checks. 5 volunteers are processing the documents. Unfortunately only two passengers from our flight were traveling for the Paralympics. The real surprise were the tens of volunteers in the Heathrow arrival hall. They took the luggage and assorted me to another group of volunteers dealing with the cars. One of them drove me with a brand new BMW 520 with IPC logo to the student house where I am staying (the driver work is also a volunteer one). The lady explained that there were about 4000 cars like this one that will be sold with a great discount after the games. The lady was extremely proud with the performance of Team GB at the Olympics and was expecting the Paralympics with impatience. All London streets have huge posters with disabled athletes advertising the Games.

The working place

I just received information about the working place – it will be the International Broadcasting Center (IBC) located in the Olympic park. The info in the london2012.com says that it can host 20 000 journalists and is build for 10 weeks. Unbelievable! By the way, my role is Uploader of VoD (video on demand) and I will be part of the paralympicsport.tv team.