Exclusive: BPA chief tight-lipped over whether Baroness Tanni should light Paralympic cauldron
Friday, 24 August 2012
August 24 - British Paralympic Association (BPA) chief executive Tim Hollingsworth has heaped praised on Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, arguably Britain's most recognisable Paralympian – but refused to enter the debate on whether or not she should ignite the cauldron at the Paralympic Opening Ceremony next Wednesday (August 29).
Baroness Tanni, an 11-times Paralympic wheelchair racing champion, is considered the most likely contender to carry out the ceremonial lighting in the Olympic Stadium to kick off the London 2012 Games, thanks to her huge contribution to Paralympic sport in the United Kingdom.
The 43-year-old from Cardiff (pictured below) was one of the key figures involved in London's bid for the Olympics and Paralympics, and part of the team that flew to Singapore in 2005 when the city won the right to stage the Games.
But while Hollingsworth admitted his utmost admiration for her, he insisted he would leave the decision over who should be granted the honour of firing up the cauldron (pictured top, the cauldron being lit in Trafalgar Square, London) to others.
"Tanni is phenomenal, there is no doubt about that in my mind," Hollingsworth told insideworldparasport.
"She is one of a very select group who has intense credibility from having been a genial, globally successful athlete and who has then gone on to use that position to help the sport further after retiring.
"Seb Coe [the London 2012 chairman] is another great example of that.
"We are hugely lucky to have Tanni in the sense that, more than anyone, she is able to get the right Paralympic messaging out to the widest possible audience.
"She has done a huge amount of work for disability awareness, and I have learnt a huge amount from her personally and I think a lot of our team have.
"She said to me on day one when I came into the role that we will know we are doing well when disabled people have the right to be rubbish at sport – by that she means that when disabled people have the opportunities and facilities to play recreational sport for fun rather than as a Paralympian.
"So [I think] she has been a very positive force in relation to our understanding of what we do and, more than anything, she is a great ambassador and role model."
"But," Hollingsworth (pictured below) added, "I'm not going to speculate on the cauldron lighting.
"We are responsible for many things at the BPA but one thing for which we are not is the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympics.
"I'm delighted, therefore, that someone else will have to make that call.
"But I'm sure, knowing London 2012, whomever they come up with will be fantastic."
Hollingsworth added that he is not actually paying too much attention to the Opening Ceremony as he is more concerned about the actual sport.
"The day I'm really looking forward to is the one after the Opening Ceremony," he said.
"That is the day when we start the competition and hopefully start winning the medals that will make the nation proud."
August 2012: Alan Hubbard - Baroness Tanni deserves to perform Flame-lighting ceremony honours