By Tom Degun

Tom Degun_with_itg_tie_onChris Holmes (pictured) stands on the verge of something very special because if the London 2012 Paralympic Games are the huge success they are predicted to be, he will have played a monumental role as the Organising Committee's director of Paralympic Integration, effectively London 2012's lead for the Paralympic Games.

How Holmes actually ended up in the prestigious position is a fascinating tale.

As a young teenager, Holmes was a talented swimmer with achievable Olympic ambitions, but aged just 14, he woke up one morning to find he had completely lost his eyesight. The harrowing ordeal was the result of a rare genetic eye disorder called Familial Exudative Vitreoretinopathy.

For many, it would be an experience hard to recover from, but Holmes remarkably went on undeterred. He continued swimming at a club in Birmingham and committed to the same training regime as sighted swimmers aspiring for the Olympics. He also continued to excel in school, achieving A grades at A-level and securing a place at Cambridge University, where he studied politics.

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It was around the same time that his swimming career really took off.

He qualified for the Seoul 1988 Paralympic Games where he put in an impressive performance, winning two silver medals and a bronze. But that event was just a taster of what was to come. At the Barcelona 1992 Paralympics, four years later, Holmes stole the show. He gathered a British record medal haul of six golds and a silver in a storming feat that saw him appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) by the Queen for services to sports.

Holmes went on to take another three gold medals and a silver at Atlanta in 1996 and finally one more silver at Sydney in 2000 before retiring from the sport with a glittering medal collection that also included a string of world and European titles.

Shortly after retiring, Holmes became a Board member of UK Sport and a Commissioner on the Board of the Disability Rights Commission while also practicing at a leading City international law firm.

In addition, he became a patron of the Help for Heroes charity and the British Paralympic Association (BPA).

But his key appointment came in August 2009 when he was officially unveiled as the London 2012 director of Paralympic Integration.

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And, as with everything else in his career, proceedings have been hugely successful.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has already hailed London 2012 as the most integrated Games ever, setting new standards that future host Organising Committees may struggle to match.

But Holmes, wisely, is refusing to be complacent.

"We are really delighted with how things have gone up to this stage," Holmes told me as we spoke together on a rare sunny day in Kent where the London 2012 Paralympic road cycling event will take place.

"We said right from the bid that we were going to run this as an integrated Organising Committee and as every day goes by, we see things which really support and illustrate what a great decision that was.

"We've had a really good run up to this point.

"But we are in no sense complacent because we have literally thousands and thousands of things that we still need to get right before we can call this a success.

"On one level, our task is very simple – to get those details absolutely right so when the world's top athletes come to London, they only have to focus giving the greatest performance of their lives because we are taking care of everything else for them.

"We have the largest number of athletes at our Paralympics with around 2,200 and the largest number of nations with around 165 but while that presents big logistical challenges; it also puts things in great shape for a great Paralympics."

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What puts things in even better shape are the outstanding ticket sales for the Paralympics.

Over one million tickets were sold last year in a feat unrivalled by any other Organising Committee. But while Holmes says he is delighted, he admits he will not be fully satisfied until every last ticket has gone.

"What the unprecedented Paralympic tickets sales demonstrate is that the Great British public love sport and that in turn is seeing them take a huge interest in Paralympic sport," he said.

"There will be so many thousands of people coming to the Paralympics and the majority of them will be seeing Paralympic sport for the first time.

"That is an awesome thing.

"But there is still an opportunity to get tickets and I urge everybody, if they haven't considered it yet, to apply for tickets on the London 2012 website. I think it is important because the Paralympics won't be coming here again in our lifetime and it is a unique opportunity.

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"The Paralympics is also special because it represents the last opportunity for people to get onto the Olympic Park before it goes to bed and all of that construction work takes place to convert it into its legacy mode. So the Paralympics is the last opportunity to get into that Olympic Stadium, that Aquatics Centre, that Velodrome and all those other venues in Games-time mode. To go into the Olympic Park for the last time before it shuts down will be incredible and I really want to make sure everyone has that opportunity to come to the Games, not least young people across the country."

With that, Holmes allows himself to turn his attention to the ParalympicsGB team and discuss their chances at the Paralympics. After all, Holmes is one of the greatest ever ParalympicsGB athletes and he says he has his fingers crossed that they will dominate in front if a home crowd, putting the icing on the cake of a great Games.

"I'm obviously excited about the ParalympicsGB team at London 2012 and excited about what they might achieve," he said smiling.

"We all know they did brilliantly in Beijing in 2008 to come second on the medal table behind China, so we have all have high hopes that a home Games could really inspire them further to take on the Chinese, who are still the team to beat.

"It will be brilliant for every sport to compete in front of a home crowd and we have real strength in depth in every sport. These athletes have trained their entire lives for this opportunity on this stage and the final piece of the jigsaw is making sure that people across the country get that Paralympic ticket in their hands to go and attend. We want that crowd to come from the four corners of the UK and reflect the diversity of the nation. I'm sure that when the Games arrive, that will be the case and I am certain of a truly specular Paralympics that the UK and the whole world will enjoy."

Tom Degun is a reporter for insideworldparasport