By Tom Degun

Oscar-Pistorius 2January 28 - Birmingham is set to host the finals of the new International Paralympic Committee (IPC) athletics series launched today. 

The Grand Prix events will be a series of global meetings in the style of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Diamond League.

Britain, the birthplace of the Paralympic Movement, was the surprise omission in the official announcement today as six Grand Prix events were revealed.

The Grand Prix series will start in March with a three-day meet in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates before going to Beijing, São Paulo, Grosseto in Italy and Arizona, and Berlin in June.

insidethegames understands that Birmingham is set to host the prestigious finals of the event, which is unsurprising after the United Kingdom staged the most impressive Paralympic athletics competition in history that saw an unprecedented 1,185,976 tickets sold and capacity 80,000 crowds in attendance for almost every session.

In addition to the Birmingham Grand Prix, London itself will also feature in the IPC Athletics calendar this year as it will be staging the first IPC Athletics Marathon World Cup as part of the Virgin London Marathon on April 21.

The Grand Prix events this year will be followed by the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyon in France in July while the announcement today comes after Doha and London were recently unveiled as the host of the 2015 and 2017 IPC Athletics World Championships respectively.

The Grand Prix events are designed give athletes greater opportunities to compete against the world's best while also developing a framework of excellence in competition management in areas such as classification, education, research and anti-doping.

"This announcement is a direct legacy of London 2012 where the sport's profile was raised to astronomical levels," said IPC Athletics sport technical committee chairman Ed Warner, who also leads UK Athletics.

"Over 1.1 million tickets were sold for the Olympic Stadium whilst many global broadcasters pulled in record audiences for track and field events.

"To build on this success IPC Athletics is keen to create more high profile competition opportunities over the coming years.

"We now have World Championships in place for 2013, 2015 and 2017 and the first IPC Athletics Marathon World Cup taking place this April to coincide with the Virgin London Marathon.

Warner, the UK Athletics chairman, predicted that the 2013 Grand Prix events will act as a trail for the IPC so that they can potentially be built on in the coming years.

"This year's Grand Prix events are very much a trial and are designed to improve standards off the track first and then provide more competition opportunities for leading athletes later," he said.

"Should the trial be successful then we will look at how we can expand these events in 2014 and beyond."

The announcement has been welcomed by leading athletes, including Britain's double London 2012 Paralympic wheelchair racing champion Hannah Cockcroft.

hannah-cockroftBritain’s double Paralympic champion Hannah Cockroft says the new IPC Grand Prix events will keep the public interest in disability sport

"The announcement that athletes are going to be getting more world-class events in the coming years is a very welcome one," she said.

"I think the fear after London 2012 for the athletes was that there was going to be a limited amount of motivation over the next four years.

"However, the Grand Prix events and the World Championships will give us plenty of chances to become the best the world and keep the public interested in our training and achievements allowing us to retain an elite status."

In addition to the announcement, IPC Athletics has confirmed today that two cities have already submitted bids to stage the 2014 European Championship following the success of last June's event in the Netherlands.

The IPC has been given permission to name Italy as one of the bidders but the second country has not yet been declared.

It is a major boost for the IPC, who had representatives in Scotland this weekend when disability events appeared on the programme at the British Athletics Glasgow International Match at the new Emirates Arena for first time in the competition's 25-year history.

And the announcement of the Grand Prix events as well as the confirmation of the World Championships venues marks an exciting period for the world's top Paralympic athletes.

"In addition to the Grand Prix events, the success of London 2012 has enabled us to confirm all our World Championships between now and 2017," said Warner.

"Regional competitions are also falling into place too.

"In 2014 we will have the Asian Para Games in Korea as well as a European Championships.

"In 2015 we have the World Championships in Doha, the Parapan American Games will take place in Canada, whilst Congo stages the All African Games.

"Athletes now have a clear pathway of major international and regional events between now and Rio 2016 and beyond.

"These are great developments for the sport and we expect to make further announcements during the year."

Full details of the IPC Athletics Grand Prix events can be found here

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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