By Tom Degun

Miguel SagarraDecember 5 - Spanish Paralympic Committee general secretary Miguel Sagarra has praised the world's media for their coverage of London 2012 and called on them to continue showcasing Paralympic sport to help change perceptions of people with a disability.

Sagarra, who is also an International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Governing Board member, expressed his views at the European Commission's annual policy conference in Brussels, Belgium.

He explained that Paralympic sport received unprecedented coverage in many countries during London 2012 and was considered by many media outlets as mainstream.

"Without doubt, 2012 has been a landmark year for disability sports thank to the stunning success of the London Paralympic Games," said Sagarra.

"Never has the profile of sport for persons with a disability and its athletes been higher.

"The Paralympic Games, which this year were broadcast to billions of people in over 115 countries, showed they are the best asset we have for increasing sports participation and for changing perceptions of persons with a disability."

Sir Philip London 2012IPC President Sir Philip Craven called London 2012 “the best Paralympics ever” at the Closing Ceremony

Sagarra believes that a seismic shift in perceptions and attitudes can become a reality is the momentum from the London 2012 Paralympics is maintained.

In London, around 2,000 of the world's media covered the Paralympics, with television pictures broadcast to a global cumulative audience of 3.8 billion people.

"Global media coverage of athletes doing things many thought not possible helps create role models, changes perceptions and inspires other to get involved in sport," Sagarra said.

"Policymakers, Governments, NGOs (Non-Govermental Organisations) and sport federations can do much to increase participation of people in disability sport.

"But the role of the media and broadcasters should not be underestimated.

"Athletes can only alter perceptions and inspire if people see or hear about their performances.

"The IPC hopes one of London 2012's major legacies is that the media no longer consider sports for persons with a disability mainstream just every four years during the Paralympics, but all year round covering world, regional and national sporting competitions."

Sagarra added that despite the fact that London 2012 was deemed "the best ever" by IPC President Sir Philip Craven at the Closing Ceremony, they did highlight the need for global grassroots development, especially in African and Latin American countries.

"London 2012 was the biggest Paralympics to date with 15 new countries taking part," he said.

"However, of the record 4,237 athletes from 164 countries involved, 45 per cent of all athletes came from just 10 countries.

"In contrast 46 countries sent just one athlete."

To help address this, the IPC launched the Agitos Foundation during London 2012, which aims to increase participation at all levels around the world by tackling the barriers that prevent people from practicing sport.

For further information on the Agitos Foundation click here.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]