By Tom Degun, Paralympics Correspondent 

September 1 – The London 2012 Paralympics are only three years away and Dame Tanni Grey Thompson (pictured), Britain’s most successful Paralympian, believes that the city will host a spectacular event. 
When discussing the preparations for the London 2012 Paralympics with the 11-time gold medallist, it is hard not to get excited.

Her enthusiasm is infectious and it is clear just how excited she is with the months ticking away until the Games begin. 
Dame Tanni said: "Preparations for the Games are going well.

"The Olympic Park is really taking shape and the main Olympic Stadium already looks amazing.
"I know that London are putting a great deal of effort into making sure the 2012 Paralympics are a fantastic event and if I didn’t believe that, I would not be so involved in them. 

"You sometimes forget how iconic a city London is and that it is one of the world’s most popular and multicultural cities.  
"It’s just great that London are hosting the Games because Paralympic sport in this country is going to receive a huge amount of media coverage and that will inspire everyone watching."
Dame Tanni believes that the whole nation will be inspired by the London 2012 Games and that Britain should be aiming to finish near the top of the medal table. 
She said: "British expectations for the Games are obviously very high - and rightly so.

"We have a great chance to do really well at these Games and get the public really excited about Paralympic sport."
As Dame Tanni has experienced the enthusiasm of the London crowd on many occasions, having won the capital's annual marathon an astonishing six times, she is well placed to pass judgment on the anticipated atmosphere when the city hosts the Paralympics in 2012.

"I get goose-bumps just thinking about it. The British athletes will get an incredible reception when they walk out into the stadiums in 2012"
Dame Tanni

She said: "I get goose-bumps just thinking about it.

"The British athletes will get an incredible reception when they walk out into the stadiums in 2012.
"Athletic crowds are always brilliant and all athletes from all countries will get a huge ovation in London.

"But the cheers that greet the British athletes will be something truly amazing. 
"A Paralympic Games is always hugely motivational and hugely inspiring but competing on home soil will make it extra special for the Brits. 

"I am sure that the Games will have such as positive influence on the Paralympic Movement in this country and around the rest of Britain."
Had Dame Tanni been at the peak of her powers at the London 2012 Paralympics, there is little doubt that she would have been a most formidable British challenger.

Certainly, the track record testifies to this astounding athlete who has won 16 Paralympic medals, 11 of them gold. 
It is unfortunate that Dame Tanni's career ended in 2007, shortly after London were awarded the Paralympics.

It is abundantly clear that she feels no bitterness at not being able to compete in London in three years time.
On the contrary, the energetic mother is as excited as anyone to have the chance to view the Games as a spectator.
She said: "Although my favourite Olympics as an athlete were probably the Sydney 2000 Games, my favorite Olympics [that I have attended] were the Beijing Olympics largely because I wasn’t competing.
"Heading out to Beijing [to work for the BBC] I thought that I wouldn’t like the Games.

"I thought that I would think that I could have been down there with all the other athletes on the start line.

"However, when I arrived in Beijing and watched the Games, I really enjoyed them and really enjoyed just being a spectator.

"Having retired, you realise just how hard it is to be on that start line.

"All you do as an athlete is eat, sleep and train.
"I used to get really nervous before races as an athlete but now, I just enjoy being a spectator and eating what I want for a change."

Dame Tanni has plenty to keep her busy when she is not watching.

She is a non-executive director for UK Athletics and sits on the board of the London Marathon as well as the Board of Transport for London.
The three-times BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year is also a patron of numerous charities across Britain. 
Asked if she was coming out of retirement for one last hurrah at London 2012, Dame Tanni simply laughed.
She said: "Definitely not!

"By the time I retired, my body was breaking down and I felt like I had given all that I could.

"It was clearly time for me to go.

"Besides, you do not have to be an athlete to experience the buzz of a major sporting event.

"You can feel the buzz whether your and athlete or a spectator."
At the London 2012 Paralympics, it is probable that fellow Welsh athlete Dave Roberts will break Dame Tanni’s record and become the most successful British Paralympian of all time.

The laid back Dame Tanni though, does not seem to be too bothered by the swimmer closing in on her place in the history books.

He equalled her total of 11 gold medals with four victories in Beijing last year and needs only more to pass her.
Dame Tanni said: "It will be really good if Dave manages to break my record.

"It’s obviously great to have records but records are there to be broken.

"Dave works really hard and will fully deserve my record if and when he gets it.

"And he is Welsh, so that makes it easier."
"You have to remember that Ellie is still only 14 and has already achieved a huge amount in the sport. That will give her confidence and will allow her to believe that she can do very well in 2012"
Along with Roberts, one of the biggest British stars at the 2012 Games is set to be Ellie Simmonds (pictured), a double gold medallist in Beijing last year.

By the time the London Olympic approaches, the swimmer will surely have the hopes of the nation resting on her young shoulders. 
However, Dame Tanni, who admitted she sometimes found it difficult to cope with huge expectation as an athlete, believes Simmonds is a strong enough to deal with the pressure.
She said: "You have to remember that Ellie is still only 14 and has already achieved a huge amount in the sport.

"That will give her confidence and will allow her to believe that she can do very well in 2012.
"She also has a fantastic coach, Billy Pye, who handles her extremely well.
"He will make sure that she has a good balance [between training and media commitments] and that she remains very disciplined.  

"Although it is important to promote the Paralympics, it is vital that Ellie doesn’t take on too many media commitments.

"Billy will make sure that she just works hard so that she is in great shape come the London Paralympics."
One of the major concerns about the London 2012 Games is regarding London’s transport system and whether it will be ready in time to host the vast number of people that will be attending the Olympic and Paralympic Games, particularly a large group of people in wheelchairs.
Dame Tanni said: "It is a challenge because London is an old city with an old transport system and to be honest, it would be easier building the transport system from scratch. 
"However, there is a huge investment going into the London transport system which is obviously great and I think that things are moving in the right direction. 
"In terms of wheelchair transport around London, I have always found that people around the city are really helpful and it is great that train stations signpost which stations are accessible by wheelchair."
As she is a hugely knowledgeable athletics fan, I could not resist asking for Dame Thompson’s thoughts on the huge gender row regarding South Africa's world 800 metres champion Caster Semenya.

Dame Tanni said: "I think the timing of the public announcement was very unfortunate.

"This poor girl is only 18 and is in the middle of a media circus.

"It’s not like drug cheating, which I hate.

"It is something far more complex that that and perhaps the situation could have been handled better."

Thoughts finally turned back to London 2012 and what does Dame Tanni expect from the Games?
She said: "We just have to make the most of the Games while they are here.

"Hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I doubt London will host the Games again for a very long time. 
"We have to really enjoy them and be thankful that London has this unique opportunity to host the greatest sporting event on earth and create a legacy from them that will inspire future generations of British Olympic and Paralympic athletes."

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