There is a reason why the jacket has to have that new look – the Paralympic logo is different from the five rings of the Olympic Games and it depicts the wonderful Paralympic motto ‘spirit in motion’.
A trip to the Uniform Distribution and Accreditation Centre in Canning Town was necessary to pick up the two new shirts and the two sustainable parts of the uniform. A new Accreditation certificate is also required and hung round my neck with a new different coloured lanyard.
All it needs now is the arrival of the Paralympians.
What is it about the South African athletes when they get together? For the second time in a couple of weeks they bring such a frisson of excitement and energy to the desk that continues long after they’ve made their way to the Olympic Village.
My first conversation is with sprinter Arnu Fourie, who explains in easy steps how to win the 100m. He just has to beat Oscar Pistorious, his South African teammate – and great rival.
Polish isn’t even my third language (because I don’t have a second) so it’s a bit of shadow boxing round that countr's 800m specialist.
Marcin Awizen has enough English to tell me he ran in Beijing 2008. Looking carefully at him I estimate his time – 1 minute 58 seconds. Which wouldn’t have been good enough to win gold, but his actual time of 1 minute 52 seconds was!
I think Marcin is my first meeting with a track gold medallist. I check that time again for two laps then do a quick calculation of my own speed and work out that Marcin would lap me, comfortably. The only consolation I can take from that fact is that if it was a one lap race I might not get lapped – but I’d have to do a personal best.
Each Heathrow Terminal has a different layout so there are different challenges accommodating wheelchairs, but BAA have invested heavily in training and test events and everything is going according to plan.
My favourite is Terminal 1 because it’s spacious and has the best air conditioning. It also has the best arrangements for forming a queue which have been surprisingly few because the athletes tend to come in a steady stream from the UK Border Agency, which acts as a natural filter for the volume of passengers arriving off a plane.
Its workforce has played a blinder this summer with extra people drafted in from all over the country. There is a lot of good co-operative working with LOCOG in the sharing of information about flight arrival times and expected passengers numbers.
Seeing the process at close quarters has given me a greater appreciation of just how good a job the Border Agency do under pressure to process passengers as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The Americans are coming.
The swimming team arrives early in the morning and their demeanour looks like it’s an attempt to outdo the South Africans for generating the feelgood factor. I strike up conversations with two of their top competitors Tucker Dupree and McKenzie Coan, you heard about them here first!
McKenzie is from Georgia and if she was having a ‘Duh’ moment at my expense she was way too polite to articulate it. Wearing a sweatshirt with GEORGIA printed across it, I asked "Are you from Georgia?" Mckenzie with the cool name and oozing charm is top of my ‘look out for’ list.
Long after the team had departed a concerned Volunteer had arrived from the ‘landside’ Paralympic Welcome Desk (she had an airside pass too) looking for one more member of the American team.
Sometimes a passenger can be a while disembarking and getting through the Border but rarely they take as long as Paul Depace, President of the International federation of Wheelchair and Amputees, who jokes stoically about himself
always being the last to emerge from a plane because of the difficulty of being confined to a wheelchair.
While he’s having his Pre-Validated Certificate laminated, Paul gives what turns out to be a little speech. He had to tell us what a wonderful experience the returning athletes from the Olympics had conveyed back to those readying themselves for the Paralympics.
From the moment those Olympians stepped onto the tarmac at Heathrow until they lifted off two weeks later the whole experience had been brilliant, he said. That’s right, Paul, and the exceptional hosting still has two weeks to run.
A few of the wheelchair users are power lifters and if I were a careers officer this is the advice I would give to every school leaver – do not embark on a career as a power lifter handshaker unless you want crushed fingers. Seriously, everyone was a gentle giant but I still wouldn’t shake their hand for too long.
Inspirational – everyone of them.
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