One of the privileges of my job is meeting inspiring people.
Sir Philip Craven MBE, who is President of the International Paralympics Committee, falls into this category and I got to meet him last Friday when my university awarded him an Honorary Doctorate for his work. Sir Philip received a Doctorate of Science in recognition of his outstanding contribution to sport and in particular to the London Paralympics 2012.
He’s a very clever man with a northern sensibility and humour that’s infectious.
He’s won many medals himself as a wheelchair basketball player, but as the man at the helm of the Paralympics movement he’s been instrumental in driving forward an amazing sea-change in public perceptions. Because the Paralympics had a significant impact on our country. Research carried out before the Games finished discovered one in three UK adults changed their attitude towards people with an impairment and eight out of ten adults thought the Paralympics had a positive impact on the way people with an impairment were viewed by the public.
The Paralympics in London created so much excitement here last year. If any one event could underscore how Paralympians are as great as Olympians, how we may all be different but fundamentally we are all the same – we are all one – then the London Games gave us that.
I run the press office at my university so I am there on these big days, to look after media wanting interviews. We had a one-off event for Sir Philip because he couldn’t make the summer degree congregation ceremonies next month. But I will be meeting the Olympic cyclist Jason Kenny then – no runners but plenty of athletes about just at the moment.