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President Chirac pays tribute to 2004 French Paralympic medallists and commends Paris’ vision for the 2012 Paralympic Games

The President awards high order decorations to the medalists at the Elysée Palace for their outstanding achievements in Athens.
The Press release (PDF - 90 Ko)
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 2012.

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.
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