The time following an Olympics and Paralympics is hard. After gorging on sport for a month and experiencing every moment of drama, success and agony..there is a big void to fill. Real life resumes and as the nights set in, the autumn cold begins to bite. In terms of the Paralympics, it is fair to say that things went even better than even the most optimistic accounts would have suggested. Talk of the troubled build up set aside as Paralympics GB surged up the medal table to remain in a lofty second spot.
A well earned word of congratulations must be extended here, not just to the athletes who performed so well but to the coaches, support staff and family members that helped create the conditions to make those medals possible. Without such a ‘team behind the team’ we wouldn’t have anywhere near as many medals to celebrate.
The challenge now will be to sustain that progress in a Paralympic playing field that is becoming ever more competitive. New strategies will be have to formed in order to find medals where they have not been forthcoming and the funding and innovation so central to success will have to be renewed. For this, there will also need to be a strong political appetite at a time when the public purse is shrinking. I may well be utterly biased, but I would say that this is one area where funding should be retained and investment to continue.
And herein lies the rub..where do we go from here? The answer must be in continued hard work, not only at the elite levels, but at grass roots to develop inclusive sport and physical activity, and to continue to address the cultural, structural and practical barriers that continue to stubbornly exist. That, for me, would amount to a legacy from Rio to be proud of.
The ‘legacy’ must happen in every day life too. Disabled people live their lives in particularly challenging times. Success too from Rio would look like every day life getting better for disabled people everywhere. This may sound a bit utopian or idealistic, and I would agree, but we have to continue to make strides forward and recognise the challenges that exist (which are numerous) and the benefits of overcoming those (which are priceless in so many ways).
As the focus of the media switches its gaze the hard work must go on to make these things happen not just once every four years but every day. Just as with the dedication that is required to represent ones country, the work needed to offer constructive solutions to complex problems will require leaving no stone unturned and thinking of every positive route to solutions.
Time will tell what the future holds, but progress is possible, and we all must (continue to) do what we can to build on a great summer. With energy, dedication and enthusiasm, the autumn cold will be kept at bay.