I write this to you as I return from yet another visit to the city of Athens where on this occasion I gave an Opening Ceremony speech at the UNESCO sponsored MINEPS IV Conference on Sport and Physical Education.
What a year it has been with the incredibly successful Athens Paralympic Games followed at the end of November by the IPC Extraordinary General Assembly in Cairo where the Paralympic family members were able to get together for a second time in 2004.
The Twelfth Paralympic Games in Athens had many great moments. First of all we saw athletes and NPC staff coming together with highly competent Paralympic sports technical personnel and IPC staff who then joined with ATHOC in creating a unique Games. 400,000 ticket sales were projected by ATHOC but the performances of Paralympians in the stadia, on the roads and in the pool drew Athenians to the Games in far greater numbers. The final ticket count was over eight hundred thousand and all media coverage records were broken. We also continue our commitment to the fight against doping with ATHENS being the first Games where all countries had agreed to comply with the WADA Code and out-of-competition testing took place. Thank you to everyone who contributed to the Athens Games and in particular to the way we all came together as a team and created success.
I would like to highlight the contribution made by each Technical Delegate and their volunteer staff teams from the 19 Paralympic Sports that made up the Games. As I toured the venues, many times reference was made by ATHOC Competition and Venue Managers as to the excellent teamwork that existed between themselves and the TDs and their team members. Congratulations!
I would like to pay further particular attention to the television coverage, which went out to 55 nations. The live television images were produced by Manolo Romero's company, ISB. The International Paralympic Committee would like to thank Manolo for the very high standard of the images produced and even more importantly, the manner in which he worked with IPC CEO, Xavier Gonzalez when funding for this project was not assured. A further big thanks has to be placed at the door of ATHOC. Its president, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki and the Greek National Lottery, OPAP, who after detailed negotiations came through with the final funding that secured live television broadcasting from Athens.
Turning to the Extraordinary General Assembly in Cairo at the end of November, thanks go out to the Egyptian Paralympic Committee for their organization of the event led by IPC Vice-President Nabil Salem. I would also like to compliment the members of the IPC who were able to attend and the quality of the debate concerning the adoption of the new IPC constitution and the nomination and electoral procedures. I believe that the very high majority voting in favour of the constitution, 88 'for', 2 'against' and 2 abstentions proved that the members are right behind the new structure of the IPC as we look forward to exciting years ahead. I was equally pleased when the vote to adopt the nomination and electoral procedures was 89 'for', 1 'against' and 2 abstentions. A similarly enlightening debate took place with regard to the adoption of the 2005 budget, which again was approved by a very large majority.
Turning to the final item on the agenda of the EGA in Cairo, namely that of the future of athletes with an intellectual disability within the Paralympic movement, I am pleased to report the adoption, by a big majority, of the motion that gives INAS-FID one last chance to develop a 'watertight, reliable, valid and proven' eligibility system for their athletes. This final endeavour, following the acceptance by both the IPC Executive Committee and the General Assembly in Cairo that INAS- FID has failed to produce such a system over the past four years will be driven by the IPC office. A progress report will be presented to the November 2005 General Assembly in Beijing, China.
Throughout 2004 external relationships with like-minded sporting and non-sporting organizations have gone from strength to strength.
I have met on many occasions with the President of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge and many other members of the IOC. I was present throughout the Olympic Games in Athens, with my wife Jocelyne and was able throughout that three week period to get to know many more of the IOC members, the result of which was a record breaking attendance by IOC members at the Paralympic Games in Athens. You know it is true what they say that seeing, or should we say experiencing is believing and I know from contact with many of the IOC members that came to Athens in September that they were amazed at the athletic prowess of Paralympians.
In Athens during the Games the IPC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with FITA, the International Archery Federation and discussions are nearing completion with the FEI (International Equestrian Federation) who should be taking over the governance of IPC Equestrian. Discussions have been ongoing with FIS the International Skiing Federation with regard to co-operation opportunities.
In early 2004 the IPC secured its first major donor, Eléctricite de France who has signed a contract of support for the IPC through to 2008. Relationships with IOC top sponsors were given a major boost when the IPC in conjunction with worldwide partner Visa International gave a presentation to many of the top sponsors present at the Athens Olympic Games on the benefits of a worldwide partnership with the International Paralympic Committee. I am pleased to report that discussions are ongoing with several top sponsors, which could come to fruition in 2005.
On the development front I was present throughout the two-day Development Conference that followed the EGA in Cairo at the end of November. Many of the foundation blocks required for effective development programmes to ensure an increasing supply of Paralympic athletes in the future were defined leading the way for the creation of the IPC strategic development plan in the very near future.
During 2004, the IPC partnered with the NebasNsg, the Dutch Paralympic Committee, to implement a project with funding from NCDO, the Dutch National Committee for International Co-operation and Sustainable Development, in a development project in selected African and Asian Nations that produced eleven new Paralympic athletes who competed in Athens. A new project has received funding from the Swiss Academy for Development, and will now take place in Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda.
On the morning of the Opening Ceremony in Athens on 17th September the IPC in partnership with Rehabilitation International staged a 'Human Rights Symposium' that from feedback received on the day and since, proved to be most effective.
The ten days of Paralympic competition in Athens, which followed the Symposium, proved beyond doubt the educative benefits of Paralympic sport in its ability to change societal perceptions for the good.
Another initiative is the 'Paralympic School Day', which has been taken up by the European Paralympic Committee with funding from the European Union for this concept to be spread across Europe. The IPC will extend the concept of the 'Paralympic School Day' to the global level.
With regard to internal communication with Paralympic family members, I believe major progress has continued to be made throughout this year. The IPC now has a comprehensive communications network with its members and a clearly defined procedure for any nation/sport/region that wishes to consider becoming a full member of the IPC.
In June Bob Price, EPC President, and I visited the Icelandic NPC and learnt much about Paralympic sports development in smaller nations and also how the sun does not set in either the very north or the south of our planet during the height of summer.
On 3rd and 4th December this year I was pleased to be able to attend the General Assembly of CP-ISRA in Edinburgh, Scotland. Communications between the founding IOSD's have improved dramatically over the past year and I am looking forward to this improvement continuing once the IOSD Council is up and running.
The Commission for Athletes with a Severe Disability has continued its work during the year, as has the Commission for Women in Sport. Only days ago the first regional 'Women in Paralympic Sport Summit' took place in Tehran, Iran.
During the Paralympic Games in Athens there were several situations involving the classification of athletes. The transparency of sport- specific classification systems is a fundamental pillar in the success of the Paralympic Games. The IPC, in close partnership with the Paralympic Sports, will undertake a review of all classification systems prior to the Beijing Games in 2008. There is a particular need to ensure that each sport's classification system is as fair as possible and is easily understood by the athletes, coaches, spectators and the media.
In looking forward to future Paralympic Games, we are only fifteen months away from the 2006 Winter Games in Torino and I intend to place these Games as my number one priority during 2005.
We can then look forward to the next Summer Games in Beijing in 2008 and the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada. I hope to visit Vancouver in March 2005.
On July 6th 2005 the IOC with the IPC will vote for the city that will stage the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games during the IOC Session to take place in Singapore. These Games will be the first time that the IPC fully participates in the election of a Games city. I give all my best wishes and good luck to London, Madrid, Moscow, New York and Paris.
Prior to my closing remarks I wish to record the resignation of Carol Mushett from the IPC Executive Committee in early November. Carol, over the past seven years has contributed greatly to the growth of the Paralympic Sports movement through her chairwomanship of the IPC Sports Council.
Finally, in closing, I wish to announce my intention to run for a second term as President of the International Paralympic Committee. These past three years have been a most exhilarating part of my life. If successful in next November's election, I look forward to being part of the new IPC Governing Board where I expect there will be a healthy blend of existing IPC Executive Committee members combining with a similar number of brand new entrants into the governance structure of the IPC.
Thanks for three great years. I am now taking a few weeks' rest in order to come back fighting fit in mid January 2005 when it will be my pleasure to attend the World Wheelchair Curling Championships in Glasgow, Scotland.
Have great end of year celebrations if your culture observes such practices and come back ready for action in 2005, the United Nations International Year of Sport & Physical Education.