French President Jacques Chirac reminded all of France that accessibility is
one of his top priorities as he praised the quality of the Paris 2012 Paralympic
plans before decorating
France’s seventy-one Paralympic Medallists from Athens 2004 at a reception at
the Elysée Palace.
The French Paralympic champions were awarded with high order decorations and
first-time Gold Medallists received the ‘Legion d’Honneur’, the highest recognition
of the French Republic.
In the presence of senior French sports and political figures, including Marie-Anne
Montchamp, State Secretary for people with disabilities, and André Auberger, President
of the French Paralympic Committee, President Chirac said: “Our project for the
Paralympic Games in 2012 is particularly ambitious. The issue of accessibility
has been thoroughly taken into account, and includes all the environment of the
Games not only the sports venues. Through the success of the Paralympic Games,
our will is to increase the integration of people with a disability into the French
society. For our country, this is a national cause and, as you know, a cause very
close to my heart”.
Paying tribute to the performances of the French Paralympic team in Athens, President
Chirac said: “Progress in the practice of sports for people with a disability
is a result of a collective effort by the sports community, volunteers, and companies.
They make sport progress as a whole. They change the way disability is viewed
in our society. […] this experience will help to prepare the Paralympic Games
in Beijing in 2008 and, I hope, in Paris in 2012”.
Following the award ceremony, the Olympic medallists attended a Paris 2012 reception
at the Town Hall hosted by Bertrand Delanoë, Mayor of Paris and President of Paris
Bertrand Delanoë warmly thanked the champions for their performances, and said they were a model
for the society: “The Games are the opportunity to multiply by ten the investment
Paris makes to improve accessibility throughout the city. In that sense, this
exciting journey to bring the Olympic and Paralympic Games to Paris offers an
ideal opportunity to effectuate an urban planning policy that
balances the needs of all citizens and visitors to our city. It will mark a historic
progress. I hope that in 2012, the Paralympic athletes will be at the very heart
of the Games - as regards the competition, the organisation, the support and the
celebration of the Olympic values”.
Jean-François Lamour, Sports Minister, added: “Our mentality and the way we consider people with a
disability need to change, and would change significantly as a result of the Games.
We achieved a lot already, having improved the accessibility of venues and the
public transport network. But there is still a lot to be done. Paris 2012 has
to be a symbol of our collective willpower to go even further in terms of integrating
people with a disability into society.”
André Auberger, President of French Paralympic Committee, said: “Like every French citizen,
our 25,000 participants do hope that Paris will have the honour to organise the
2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. We do need the Games to improve the integration
of people with a disability in sports federations, but also in everyday life,
when it comes to transport, employment, accessibility, and infrastructure. Only
the Games, a major event drawing massive media attention, can change the way a
society views people with a disability. I’m confident that, afterwards, they would
live on a daily basis without difference, nor indifference”.
Leading Paris 2012 officials attended both events to congratulate the medallists,
including Jean-François Lamour, French Sports Minister and Henri Sérandour, President
of the French National Olympic Committee. French International Olympic Committee
members Guy Drut, Alain Danet, Maurice Herzog along with Philippe Baudillon, CEO
of the Paris Bid, were also among the attendees.