Beyond the Paralympics: Disability Sport and Technology provided an opportunity for showcasing British innovation while highlighting the success of the London Games at a time when Rome prepares to make a bid for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The event, which took place in the beautiful setting of the British Ambassador’s official residence, Villa Wolkonsky, was structured around an innovative technologies showcase and three workshops: Transport, Innovation and Legacy. The GB team had been invited to send two athletes to take part in exhibition table tennis matches between GB and Italy, with Sara Head taking on Michela Brunelli and Aaron McKibbin playing Raimondo Alecci. McKibbin also played a match against the very sporting British Ambassador, Christopher Prentice.
Among those present at the event were Emma Boggis, head of the Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Unit at the Cabinet Office, Luca Pancalli, President of the Italian Paralympic Committee and Alex Zinardi, former Formula 1 racing driver and London 2012 Paralympic cycling champion.
At the conclusion of the event Christopher Prentice passed one of the Olympic torches to the Brazilian Ambassador, Riccardo Neiva Tavares.
“I think it was very good experience,” said McKibbin. “We don’t usually get to do events like this abroad and it was nice to learn a bit about how they want to move the Paralympics forward from London. It is good to see that people still really enjoy it and all the people we spoke to – both British and Italian – were all really amazed by how London went. So it was nice to relive the memories again and to play in such a lovely venue that was very different to where we normally play. The building was amazing and Rome is a nice city so I really enjoyed it.”
“I had a great day,” agreed Head. “It was a brilliant experience and great to meet so many people and to see that the London legacy is still ongoing. Seeing the Brazilian Ambassador receiving the Olympic torch makes you think Rio is not far off. It is brilliant that London has had a massive knock-on effect; technology is getting better and if it keeps getting better it is only going to help people to enhance their lives so that is always a positive thing. It is always good to see new things that are happening and to experience it with some of the great people who were here today is fantastic.”