Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games: A legacy

Arial view of the park at twilight that highlights the green grass of the three main stadia. Sydney Paralympic Games.This year marks the 20th anniversary of what was considered the “most accessible games ever”. That means both events – Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games. It set the standard for others to follow. The London Paralympic Games claimed the “most accessible” title in 2012.  But what of the legacies of these Games?

Several research papers have looked at the legacies of Olympic and Paralympic Games. Simon Darcy charts the whole process and the disability politics of the Sydney Games. Raju Mahto connects tourism with Olympic Games to show how accessibility supports both the event, the legacy and tourism for all. His paper, “Games Events, Accessible Tourism – A Mile to Go with Special Reference of Paralympics”, has some key findings that apply to any major event. By taking a universal design approach Mahto recommends:

    • Tourism operators must understand the needs of customers who have a disability
    • Accommodation establishments should have several accessible rooms
    • Public transportations systems should consider parallel services and ensure easy access to transport hubs
    • Tourism operators need to partner with Games organisers, the community and the private sector.
Other findings, that many of us are aware of, were that
    • Paralympic Games show how people with disability can participate as athletes not just spectators.
    • Post Games, Olympians can act as brand ambassadors for legacy in the long term and help raise awareness of the capabilities of people with disability.
    • Universal design should include all possible assistive devices where individual assistance is needed.
    • Events cannot be declared successful without a planned legacy in terms of ongoing strategic vision for the site and venue to remain accessible.
    • Paralympic Games bring social and practical improvements for accessibility and for personal and professional development.

      The Sydney Olympic Park Authority (SOPA) continues the legacy to this day. The Access Committee formed during the lead up to the Games continues on and is now called the Access and Inclusion Leadership Committee. It has overseen many improvements in inclusive sport and other events as well as the built environment. 

Editor’s Comment: I was fortunate to be involved with the accessibility of many Games venues during my time with the Independent Living Centre NSW. I have followed the fortunes of this site since. As a member of the SOPA Access and Inclusion Leadership Committee I contribute to the continuous improvement process of doing more than compliance and applying universal design principles.