How hosting the Paralympic Games in 2026 could impact accessibility in Calgary
We have heard a lot about funding and the yes side and the no side, but if Calgary decides to bid on the 2026 Winter Olympics, it also comes with the Winter Paralympics.
David Legg, past president of the Canada Paralympic Association, joined Global News Morning Calgary on Wednesday to talk about what hosting the Paralympic Games in Calgary would mean for the city and the country.
He said he cringes everytime he hears about the plebiscite.
“It’s an Olympic and Paralympic Games plebiscite, and I think that is something that has been missed,” he said. “I think it’s an important conversation that Calgarians and people in the Bow Valley need to have.”
The first time the Olympics Games and Paralympic Games were held in tandem was at the 1988 summer games in Seoul, Korea. This set the precedent to have the games at the same time, Legg said.
“Certainly, the venues would benefit from hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games because the accessibility would be improved dramatically for the 11 facilities that currently exist from the 1988 Games,” he said. “Accessibility standards have significantly changed since the late 1980s.”
Legg argues hosting the games would improve accessibility not only at the proposed new builds and renovated sports facilities, but also buildings across the city.
“Tokyo 2020 has just instituted a policy where all hotels have to increase the percentage of rooms which are accessible for persons with disabilities,” he said.
Holding the Paralympics in Calgary would also raise awareness in Canada about what people with disabilities can do at the highest level of sports.
“From a psycho-social perspective, the ability to show that persons with disabilities performing on the highest level could raise the understanding of what people with disabilities are capable of, which could translate into improved hiring practices or improved social inclusion,” he said.
Legg added the Paralympics would showcase the city as a disability-friendly city, drawing people from all over the world to Calgary.
“Calgary could become a hub of accessible tourism for all persons,” he said. “Calgary and the Bow Valley [would become] that destination of choice for people with disabilities who now know that our airport, our transit system, our infrastructure [are] fully accessible.”
It’s also about shifting perceptions about people with disabilities, he said, using Mount Royal University’s wheelchair basketball team as an example of how they are working to “normalize” disability by showcasing athletic talent.
“It becomes something that they’re used to seeing and expect to see, and I think the Paralympic Games offers that opportunity in 2026,” he said.
— With files from Global News’ Dallas Flexhaug
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