On Saturday 30th August 2014, exactly two years to the day since ParalympicGB won its first medals during London 2012, I was lucky enough to visit Queen Elizabeth Park in Stratford for National Paralympic Day 2014.
A celebration of all things Paralympic, this annual festival saw the stars of London 2012 returning to the stadiums to compete once again, and in the case of the races in the London Aquatics Centre, take part in the first international swimming competition that the centre has seen since London 2012.
Hosted by HRH The Earl of Wessex and the Deputy Mayor of London Munira Mirza, sport wasn’t the only event on the menu at the Olympic Park, as the Liberty Festival, an annual showcase of the work of Deaf and disabled artists, was also in full swing. With stalls, performances and live events, including street theatre, dance and music, taking place throughout the park, it was impossible not to feel the thrill of the Paralympics reverberating around East London once again.
First up for me though was a visit to the Aquatics Centre to watch Paralympic swimming star and London 2012 gold medallist Jessica-Jane Applegate return to the waters, in a series of thrilling races which finally saw TeamGB triumph over the rest of the international competition! Jessica was also joined by Glasgow Commonwealth Games winners Jack Thomas and Steph Slater; making this a truly British affair, with so much Paralympic talent on show.
Following up a nail-biting time in the Aquatics Centre was never going to be easy, but an intense game of Boccia in the huge Copper Box Arena managed to deliver the goods. Pitching TeamGB against our arch-rivals Greece, the game was neck-and-neck right from the very beginning, but much to the annoyance of the crowd, Greece managed to take the game in the final moments, which means the rivalry will be even more intense next year!
After watching all of nerve-wracking matches, it was great to get back out into the fresh air of the Olympic Park to watch some performance art and listen to some great music played by the likes of Ren Harvieu and Jez Colborne and Mind the Gap. The whole park was alive with Olympic spirit and the entire event was a great reminder of the power of the Paralympic games and the positive spirit that it encapsulated.
As well as exploring everything that the Liberty Festival had to offer, we were also able to try out a range of Paralympics sports for ourselves. Everything from wheelchair basketball to boccia and inclusive cycling was on offer, and there were also a lot of activities for kids, aiming to get them excited and interested in accessible sport. Autograph hunters also got the chance to hang out with some of their favourite Paralympic stars, including Jonnie Peacock and Stef Reid.
All in all, this was a great way to end the summer and served as an excellent reminder of how inclusive and accessible Great Britain can be when it puts its mind to it.