Craig Spence, Chief Brand and Communications Officer at International Paralympic Committee, at a press conference.

Craig Spence on the International Paralympic Committee

Release Date: June 2, 2023

Category: Paralympics | Podcast

Craig Spence, Chief Brand and Communications Officer at International Paralympic Committee, joins us to discuss the IPC’s new strategic plan–or at least some of it. Plus, we get into how the IPC is different from the International Olympic Committee, what goes into revamping the classification system and the making of the We the 15 campaign.

Follow Craig on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

In our TKFLASTAN Update, we’ve got news from:

Plus, we have news from Paris 2024, including a devastating flood that’s hit the site of the surfing competition.

Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive!

Photo courtesy of Craig Spence.



Note: This is an uncorrected machine-generated transcript. It contains errors. Please do not quote from the transcript; use the audio file as the record of note.

Craig Spence on the International Paralympic Committee (Episode 289)

Jill: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Keep the Flame Alive, the podcast four fans of the Olympics and Paralympics. If you love the games, we are this show for you. Each week we share stories from athletes and people behind the scenes to help you have more fun watching the games. I am your host, Jill Jarris, joined as always by my lovely co-host, Allison Brown.

Allison, hello, how are you? I was

Alison: having a good day until I realized I forgot to turn off all my notifications. And now I did it, and now I’m having a good day again, things started beeping just as you started talking. Oh,

Jill: yes. So it’s heard when the phones go off.

Alison: Oh my goodness. That’s happened to us more than once.

In more than one interview. Did you see there was a press conference that was making the rounds where one of the basketball players answered the phone from his mom in the middle of a press conference. Wow. It was so cute. He was like, hi, mommy, I’m in media. And I said, that’s right. You answer the phone when your mother calls you.

I don’t care what you’re doing.

Jill: Well, speaking of answering, we won’t be answering for a little while. We a little programming note. We are recording this show on May 22nd because Alison is going on a very exciting vacation, much needed. So you are getting some lovely r and r and I’m gonna help my mom get through some surgery so We are taking a little break from production behind the scenes, but we’ve got these new episodes for you.

We won’t have a sole moment on this episode cuz it wasn’t quite [00:02:00] ready, but we will have those back for you next week. Excited. Are you packed?

Alison: Yes and no.

Jill: Okay. And, and I would, I would, I would respond that, no, no, I’m not excited. I’m not, not packed.

Alison: Well, Majak get better fast.

Jill: That’s what we’re hoping.

Yeah. Yeah. Uh, well the exciting thing is, the, hopefully the surgery will help fix problem. So that’s good. And hopefully vacation will help you feel rested and fixed problem.

Alison: Vacation will fix problem as well. That’s right. That’s right. Well, you know what? We don’t need to fix our mood from today.

Jill: Oh man. We just got off the line with Craig Spence, the Chief of Branded Communication Officer of the International Paralympic Committee, and we were a. Thank you for getting this because we’ve been wanting to talk to Craig for a long time and you worked hard on getting him for a while and so exciting to always get to talk to somebody within the I P C and the Paralympic movement to learn more about them.

So, we’ve got Craig on for a couple of episodes because. Sucker. He was very generous with his time. you put it nicely like that. I will be the sir Craig greedy of us and go sucker. He didn’t plan a meeting after his scheduled allotment with us and said he could go over.

Alison: He didn’t know what he was getting into. Right. But he was still smiling when he got off with us. So I think it’s all good.

Jill: Very true. I hope so. So, Craig joined the I P C in 2010 after years in public relations and a stint at the Rugby Football League. We spoke with Craig at Great Lake, like we said.

So we’ll be splitting this up into two parts. We started with the IPC’s new strategic plan. Take a listen.

Craig Spence Interview

Alison: Craig Spence thank you so much for joining us today. [00:04:00] Let’s start with the new strategic plan. Why now? And what are we gonna say?

Craig Spence: Well, every four years, the I P C creates a strategic plan. So in the same way that the games works in cycles we have a four year strategic plan, and it was time for the new strategic plan.

We’d come to the end of the, uh, the last cycle, and then we started work nine months before launching this plan on the blank canvas on creating this plan. So, yeah, I mean, as a membership based organization, the I P C we’re here to serve our members, and there’s over 200 of them.

So the starting point was asking them, What do you want the i p C to do effectively? and through the period of focus groups and consultations with our members and working with our governing board, we then produced four strategic goals on what we believe are the most important areas to take the Paralympic movement forward between 2023 and 2026.


Alison: let’s go through the goals. so serve our members and athletes to advance the Paralympic movement. Showcase athletic or athlete excellence through delivery of transformative Paralympic games drive impact through Parasport and continue to build a professional organization that rigorously pursues excellence in the service of the Paralympic movement.

we’ll start at the beginning. What is serving our members and athletes to advance the Paralympic movement mean in real context that fans would see different.

Craig Spence: Yeah so I mean, let’s just be clear on who our members are, first of all. So I think mu much of your audience is probably Phil, familiar with the Olympic movement, where the members are people.

Our members are organizations. So we are an organization of organizations and there’s over 200 of them. So our members are national Paralympic committees, international federations, regional organizations and international organizations of sport for the disabled. Now, what we want to do by serving, and we are a membership-based organization, so we’re here to serve what they need.

And we’re not a body who’s gonna go into a, a country, for example, and implement a sport development [00:06:00] program. It’s for our member in that country to, to lead that process. But what we can do is work with our members to really help make them stronger, facilitate what they need to expand and make more of an impact in their respective country or within their respective spot and our members.

Are responsible for the athletes, especially the National Paralympic committees. So, and we wanna be an athlete centered movement. So it’s how can we work with our members so they can better serve the athletes? And that’s bringing athletes into the grassroots and then putting them on a pathway from, from, participating in disability spot at the, at the very butch grassroots level and the entry point food to say world championships are the pinnacle of our movement, which is the Paralympic Games.

So that’s what serving our members is it’s working with them so that they can. Become better organizations. I mean, the level of our national Paralympic committees differs around the world. You’ve got some of the bigger national Paralympic committees such as the U S O P C or, Paralympics GB or Paralympics Australia.

There big organizations with, strong workforces. At the opposite end of the spectrum, you’ve got some national Paralympic committees in, say, Africa, Latin America, or Southeast Asia. That’s one volunteer looking after everything. They’re often the president, the secretary General, the performance director, the coach.

And in some cases they’re also an athlete. So, how do we take those organizations that don’t even have any per workforce members and, and make them stronger and, and give them the skills that they need to succeed, thrive, and. Expand their impact. So that’s probably the first element of serving is our members, is how do we work with them to organize to strengthen their organizational capabilities.

The second thing is, is communication is how can we improve communications between I P C and our members, but then from our members to our athletes? Because we want our athletes to be kept in the loop on everything we do. Our athletes are [00:08:00] the greatest ambassadors for our movement. We want them to be role models who ultimately communicate our vision, which is to use parasport to drive social inclusion around the world.

So optimizing that communication is, is really important. We don’t want to bombard them with tons of emails. Getting the right level of information is, important. The third element of serving our members is, is ensuring this great athlete representation throughout. The movement. So here at the I P C, we have many athletes, Paralympians, who work for us.

And it’s really important because they know what it’s like to be a Paralympian and what you need to succeed as an athlete in the Paralympic movement. So our chief executive, for example, is a two-time Paralympian. He competed in CP football in, in, in Atlanta in 96, in Athens in 2004. And we want athlete leaders in the movement telling us what is needed as an athlete to succeed.

So we’re working with our national Paralympic committees, now international federations to ensure they have athlete representatives at the highest level. And I think in the last strategic cycle, we made some really good progress on increasing the athlete voice within the Paralympic movement. And now we want to go further and, and ensure that there’s athlete representation within all our national Paralympic committees and with our, and within all our international federations.

And then the final element of serving our athletes and our members is, is comes down to classification. Classification is unique to the Paralympic movement and it’s important that we regularly review the code, which is a bit like the Bible on classification in, in the movement, and ensure that it’s fit for purpose and serves the needs of our athlete community and and our members.

So, we’re currently on with a classification code review, and once we’ve finished that review, there’s obviously the implementation of a new code. And why do we wanna do that? Well, we wanna ensure that classification, which is constantly evolving due to sport sciences, is up to date and fit for purpose.

And at the same time, we also want people to understand what [00:10:00] classification is because sometimes it’s the thing that really does confuse people when it comes to the Paralympic movement. So that’s ultimately goal one, which is serve our members and athletes to advance the movement. We want the movement to grow and it certainly has done over say the last, 10 years, especially.

Alison: I have a quick question on national federations, because you’ve got federations like the U S O P C that have combined and are very strong, and then something like Australia who is separate and very successful. Does the I P C have an official opinion or an unofficial opinion on they prefer, which works better for them?

Craig Spence: No, I think, it’s not for our opinion. It’s what works best for the member and in some cases they will find that integration really does work for them and with others. It, it might be no, we want we like the independence and the way to thrive. What I think is important is that if it’s separate bodies, Olympic committees and Paralympic committees, how can they share best practice because they’re not competing against each other.

And I think it’s really important that there’s that link between the two. And I also think in certain, in, in countries where. Our national Paralympic committees are small. The volunteer organizations that I mentioned earlier, I think it’s really important and critical that the Olympic committees al almost take them under their wing and help them develop as well.

And, and that’s one of the things that we’re looking with this strategic goal is how can our bigger NPCs also mentor and support some of the smaller NPCs. And we’ve seen like the National Paralympic Committee of Columbia, he’s doing a fantastic job of doing this with some of the smaller national Paralympic committees in Latin America.

And yeah so it’s, it’s not for us to say this model works. Everyone should do it. It’s for each National Paralympic committee to find a model that works best for them.

Alison: So we talk about transformative Paralympic games. So this strategic plan will cover Paris and Milan Cortina. Paris is first. So what do you see as changing different, that fans can expect that will [00:12:00] look different for

Craig Spence: those?

I think it’s, yeah, I mean, look, the pa the Paralympic Games is the pinnacle sport event that we do, and I think over the last 10 years it’s, grown from being, um, a great games to a fantastic games. And I think it’s really improved in every single area. The athletic performance. Let’s focus on that.

First of all, we’ve seen a real dramatic increase in athletic performance probably since Beijing in 2008. In Be, I mean, for those who were, let’s look at the history books in Beijing in 2008. Out of nowhere, China dominated every single spot, and that, I think was a wake up call for many of our national Paralympic committees around the world, which was, hang on a minute, we’re no longer top of the medals table.

What have China done to get to, to dominate so much? And, and what China had done is they’d implemented a, a high performance, full-time program. And now a lot of our national Paralympic committees have done pretty much the same. So our athletes 15 years ago, many of them were part-time or amateur. Now the bigger national Paralympic committees have full-time programs where they receive central funding and they’re training full-time.

What does that look like in terms of performance? Well, we’ve seen a significant evolution in performance since 2008. and I always quote the same to statistic. I’m a bit of a data geek, and if you look at times that won gold medals in Athens in 2004, some of those times would not even qualify you for the final in Tokyo.

Which is pretty impressive. And I don’t think you could use that evolution of performance from any other spot. And that’s not spot that needs equipment. That’s that, that statistic primarily comes from vision impaired running, where the equipment is just pure human performance. It’s not because wheelchairs have evolved or things like that.

It’s just the result of high performance sport programs. So, and because the sport is so much better now in terms of performance and our depth of talent is increasing around the world too, which is really important. [00:14:00] So many people will remember the Paralympics 20 or 30 years ago and, and effectively there were races of just far athletes.

Now we’re seeing much greater depth of talent where there’s heats and then the finals are really close events. You’re not winning by. Three or four seconds. And, And because the performance is evolving and, and the depth of talent is increasing, the games is now becoming a more attractive TV proposition.

And that’s critically important because what we want to do is use the Paralympic games to change how people think about disability around the world. And that only happens if you see the sport. I can’t tell you to change our attitude towards disability. It needs to come from a positive experience.

And that positive experience is either witnessing the sport and performances in venues by buying a ticket or watching it on tv or sampling it through the media, whether that’s internet, newspapers, or radio. And therefore this improvement in performance. We’ve seen the TV audiences increase exponentially.

So in Tokyo, a cumulative 4.1 billion people in 108 countries watched the Paralympic games. So that’s the sport element of the Paralympics. What I, I think we cherish so much about the Paralympics though, is the transformative impact. So you watch the games, we change attitudes towards disabilities. What does that mean?

And what does the Paralympics lead to in many host countries? And we’ve seen. For the last 20 years, especially the Paralympics really changed the host country dramatically. And it’s probably even further than 20 years. Cause Barcelona was the first Paralympics in, in 1992, where we really saw a city change because of the Paralympics.

So Barcelona historically was a, a dirty old port city. won the Paralympics, they made the city tremendously accessible. And including the transport systems, they thought long term and the [00:16:00] village was built, accessible and such like, and they continue to improve access after the game. So Barcelona led the way, create the blueprint, and then we’ve seen other countries really take that man mantle and, and raise the bar even further.

So in, in Beijing Beijing, China, historically was not a country that did much for disability. And there’s a lot of persons with disabilities in China, there’s over 120 million. They, and they were excluded from society with very few rights. The Paralympics going to Beijing led the Chinese governments thinking about disability for the first time.

They were one of the first signatures of the u the un convention of Rights for Persons with disabilities. They invested 125 million euros over seven years, making 14,000 facilities accessible. These are things that would never have happened if it wasn’t for the Paralympics. So Beijing again raised the bar.

London went even further. And that was through commercial activations. So, we positioned Paralympic sport as high performance sport. Athletes look very different in TV campaigns. Channel four recruit a whole raft of presenters with disabilities. All this combined create this perfect storm where we transform attitudes in Great Britain towards disability.

So the London 2012 Paralympics led to one in three people in Great Britain changing their attitudes towards dis disabilities. So that’s the equivalent of 20 million people. There’s no campaign in the world that really causes 20, 20 million people to change their actions. But I also say that changing attitudes is one thing, but what’s the consequence of that?

And we found with London six years later, 1 million more persons with disabilities were in employment in Great Britain. And now the Paralympics clearly contributed to that. We can’t say we delivered that on ourselves. So we wanna use the games to really get governments to think differently about disability and take actions.

And, and we’ve seen it in every single games. Tokyo most recently. Metro stations went from 75% accessible to a hundred percent. And in Paris already [00:18:00] we’ve seen the French government recently announce 1.5 billion euros worth of investment to make the country more accessible for people with disabilities.

So that’s what the transformative impact to Paralympics can have around the world. And, and I think the most exciting thing is we’re only scratching the surface of what we can achieve.

Jill: So I have several questions. I bet you do. Um, looking at countries who were not traditionally accessible, Back in the day when they got the Olympics and also got the Paralympics, was that seen as a, oh, this is a great opportunity, or, oh, this is something we have to have as well, cuz that’s

Alison: part of the deal.

Yeah, it’s

Craig Spence: a difficult one. Cause I, I don’t really wanna speak on behalf of those horse countries, but I think what I can say is I’ve seen, I’ve been at the IPC 13 years and I’ve definitely seen a real switching attitude from the host countries and the host organizing committees where it’s like, oh, we have to do both games, do we to seeing the opportunity of what the Paralympics can bring.

And I think now when organizers committees win the right stage, the Paralympic games they get excited by what could happen and the potential of the Paralympics. Because I always say Paralympics is this unique sport event that can change our country forever. and that doesn’t come along very often to use sport as a catalyst for social regeneration.

And, and like in Beijing, the Paralympics changed, probably really improved the lives of 120 million people. That’s really important. And I think now I, I, I look towards Brisbane, they’re so excited about the Paralympics going to Australia and, and building on the success of the Sydney 2000 games.

It’s just, it’s really good when it’s not just the organizing committee that’s excited, but also the host city and the host governments saying, okay, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to [00:20:00] really change our country for the better and drive inclusion because, Inclusion in the last 10 years, I dare say, has always been about gender.

It’s been about ethnicity and sexual orientation, and people tend to forget about disability. Yet there’s 1.2 billion persons with disability in the world. 15% of the world has a disability, and now people are realizing, hang on a minute, when we make something accessible in our country, it doesn’t just benefit persons with disabilities, but the elderly are people with strollers and parents and things like that.

Or you might break your leg tomorrow and suddenly your access needs completely change. And that’s what’s really great is people now see the Paralympics is, is this wonderful opportunity to, to drive social change,

Jill: I gotta say in Beijing 2022, I felt that with the wheelchair curling tournament just.

The crowds there were incredible and so vocal and knowledgeable about the sport, but on the Olympic side, but on the Paralympic side, because China did so well and won, they were just beside themselves with joy, and it was so great to see.

Craig Spence: Yeah, we’ve seen, we’ve seen it. One of the things we do when a, a Paralympics goes into a host country is we work really hard, strongly on education of what the sports are and then raising the profile of the star athletes.

Now, we were very lucky with, with China a dares, a in the fact that China won gold in wheelchair curling at pyeongchang 2018, and that was the country’s first ever. Paralympic winter games gold medal. So those athletes then became our focal point for pretty much every single piece of communications activity in China in the buildup to the games is, is come and see our inaugural champions and then, and to back it up with success again in, in, in Beijing in 2022 was really important.

So, So yeah, it was, um, it’s great when the crowds are full and knowledgeable and I think previously people went to watch Paralympic sport not knowing what to expect. Now when they go to watch Paralympic sport and they buy a ticket, they know they’re gonna see [00:22:00] high performance athletes, the best in the world, depth of talent and really strong competition.

And that’s, that’s what you want when you go see a sport and event. What makes us different is you see great sport, but it’s sport that changes your perception of persons with disabilities and has a wider impact on society and no other sport and movement in the world I think can touche us when it comes to that, to what makes us unique.

Jill: So what are you hoping for LA 2028? Because I think as Americans, that’s one thing. We’ve had the Americans with Disabilities Act for a while. It’s not perfect, but accessibility is built into new buildings and things like that. So we’re a little different than say, Paris. That’s a city that’s hundreds of years old.

That was not built with accessibility in mind. But what are you hoping that, things do for accessibility in

Alison: la?

Craig Spence: Look, I, I dare I, I know Paris is just over under 500 days away, but the games that excites me the most is la. And I think if you ask anyone in the Paralympic movement they’ll say something similar.

And the reason being is our profile is very big in Europe for the Paralympic movement, but in the US we’re still pretty small for, I, I dare say that more people are aware of the Special Olympics than they are the Paralympics. And that, that again, really excites me in a way because we can make such a difference in, in, in the us.

I mean, for a start, it’s not just also about accessibility. It’s what difference can we make elsewhere? LA is the home of the global entertainment industry. Just imagine the impact that we can have there, because what triggers people around the world to change attitudes? It’s sport and its entertainment and its role models and its heroes.

So imagine if we can suddenly start and work with Hollywood. To see greater representations authentically of persons with disabilities in movies around the world. Just imagine if you’ve got more pop stars with disabilities [00:24:00] or TV campaigns featuring persons with disabilities, that’s gonna really lead to a cultural switch.

We’ve seen that in Great Britain. Channel four, its model of recruiting presenters with disabilities has rubbed off on the whole of the British entertainment industry. You now see persons with disabilities in TV commercials and pretty much on every single channel in the uk, whether it’s a weather presenter who’s, and maybe an arm on beauty or a news presenter who’s a wheelchair user.

It’s just normal, I dare say now on British TV in the same way that you might see a, a female or someone, someone who’s black, someone who’s white. It’s just taken for granted now. Whereas that’s not taken for granted in terms of disability in the in, in the us. So if, if we can really change the entertainment industry in Hollywood, that’s gonna have an impact, not just in California and the US but really globally.

Cause for many people around the world, the US is seen as the benchmark. And if we can change Hollywood, tremendous in terms of accessibility, look, I’d love to be able to continue to improve accessibility in LA and across the us. How can we build on the legislation that was introduced many, uh, a generation ago.

But just general changing attitudes and, and increasing employment opportunities for persons with disabilities because discrimination is still out there. And sometimes when people see a, a person with a disability they look at the disability first and they think they can’t do something. And what the Paralympics is, is the Paralympics is the only showcase that exists that showcases what persons with disabilities can achieve when they’re given an opportunity to succeed at the highest level.

And sport does that. Now, imagine if we can then replicate that in, in the entertainment industry, in the workplace and such, like, so, so I’m so excited that in LA we could really just [00:26:00] change attitudes, change Hollywood. And just really make a global impact. And yeah, we’re so excited for LA 28 and the team, there’s working closely with us to ensure it’s a success and we’ve got five years to do it.

Alison: I wanna ask a little bit about we the 15, cuz you were talking about campaigns that was fantastic and was so successful. Where did it come from and how did that evolve?

Craig Spence: Did I say the pandemic helped on this? So we had a, a tiny idea. We worked with an advertising agency in the UK called Adam Manif, that one of the biggest advertising agencies in Europe.

Unbelievable creative minds. And we were discussing a campaign that we wanted to implement for Tokyo, which would be an I P C campaign. And they, they were really tying into this. Where we want to focus on is the impact of the Paralympic Games on society. And they said, look, we’ve got this idea for a campaign called We the 15, which is getting the world to understand that 15% of the world has a disability.

Cause no one realizes that. And just by acknowledging it, rather than pointing the finger saying, you’re discriminated against persons with disabilities, change it. We just said, letting the world know that 15% of the world has a disability we think will make a difference. Now, originally it was just gonna be an I P C campaign, and then the pandemic hit Tokyo 2020 was postponed.

And that gave us a little bit of time to really engage other organizations. And I, and I just felt that when I looked at the world of disability campaigning, everyone was working in silos. There’s many organizations around the world who want to drive inclusion for 1.2 billion people, but no one’s ever joined forces.

And the joy of the pandemic was. Previously when you wanted to meet someone, you’d probably have to get through to them on a call, which was really difficult. And then you’d have to go meet them in person. And that’s resource and intensive. And the [00:28:00] pandemic. Suddenly everyone started doing video calls and therefore the doors started opening much more easier.

So we managed to, the first call I made was to the International Disability Alliance, who’s the biggest global body when it comes to disability rights. And I explained to them this is the campaign. And they loved it. And then suddenly we got them on board, and then they showed us who they felt else.

And suddenly we went from two organizations to 20 organizations within the space of six months. And for the first time in history, we had everyone pulling the same direction on a global campaign. And and we covered all different sectors. So we had I P C. Special Olympics, deaf Olympics and Invictus Games, the four big bodies who organized different disability sport events working together.

We had various UN agencies working together. We had the valuable 500 who bring together 500 of the biggest businesses in the world to drive disability inclusion at the boardroom level. We had them covering employment. We had policy makers and, and, and we had like a, we called a super group of organizations who wanted to work together.

And then, and then we created Adam and Eve created the most stunning TV commercial, which to this day still blows me away. 90 seconds of joy where we don’t point the finger, we just show that persons with disabilities are like everyone else. They want the same opportunities and, but it’s society who, who doesn’t allow that.

And then we called him many, many favors, which was, we’ve got this campaign, how can we get it out there? So, Our broadcasters around the world were brilliant. So we got airtime for the advert on 40 of our tv rights holders around the world who gave us probably 50 million euros worth of free airtime, which is pretty phenomenal.

Many of our commercial partners activated campaigns around it like Coca-Cola, Allian, so you’ve got some of the biggest brands in the world there. And then we also, you’ve gotta imagine you’ve got 20 international organizations all working [00:30:00] together. They all have huge followings and networks and fingers in many pies, as I dare say.

And they activated their networks and, and we got, suddenly we had like David Beckham on board, Selma Blair. And it just went huge. And at the same time we, we turned the world purple. So our original objective was, can we turn 50 landmarks around the world? Purple? And we finished with 260. So we started in Auckland and we finished in Las Vegas, like alga parties should.

And it was brilliant, but it just, we managed to create this huge media moment. And the objective was the world doesn’t really discuss disability rights. When better time to do it when the Paralympics is just about to begin. So yeah, it just monumental impacts and now we’re trying, it’s really difficult for us.

Cause with any good band who has a good first album, the second studio album is also always the most difficult. So planning Weda 15 part too has been really difficult for us. But you’ll start to see probably around Paris, what we’re planning to do. So, yeah, a real good campaign. So much team effort into there.

I mean, there were so many people here within the I P C who worked on it, but without their support and the support of the agencies and all the other partners, we wouldn’t have achieved what we did. And yeah a, a very proud Melbourne.

Alison: It was that video was just absolutely breathtaking in its simplicity in a way.

Craig Spence: Yeah. I mean, we worked long hard and we stress tested everything we did on this, uh, um, I always remember we had a, a working group on the advert. So there was myself, some of my colleagues from the I P C, we had the International Disability Alliance and then we had UN Human Rights with us.

And there’s a guy called Fado Chavez who’s a, an Argentinian wheelchair user who works for un Human rights. And we were brainstorming the ideas and he said, do you know what? I just want the same life that everyone else has. And that was just like, it was Eureka [00:32:00] moment was, that’s gonna be the theme for the campaign, but we’ll just tolerate the language slightly.

And that was the theme for the thing is we just wanted to show, we didn’t wanna point the finger and say, you discriminated against persons with disabilities cause that will achieve nothing. No one likes to be told they’re not doing something right. But we felt if we could showcase persons with disabilities all around the world, and we filmed in six different countries around the world, Different disabilities showing that they have the same aspirations as anyone else, but it’s society who puts the barriers in place for them.

And we never said really such about the barriers. It was just a natural thing you really realized, and we didn’t tell the world to do anything. We just told them 15% of the world has a disability, but so many people switched onto the campaign due to its simplicity. And then also we put humor in there which was really important for us.

And it’s really difficult to get the right balance of humor globally. We didn’t want it to be like a Monty Python sketch. But we also, there was, we wanted it to be fun though, because persons with disabilities have the best sense of humors on this planet. They don’t mind laughing about themselves or, or having jokes with people.

And we wanted to show that. So we, again, we had to really stress test the level of humor. It’s okay, a British advertising agency saying, this humor’s gonna work. But really is it gonna still work in Asia or Africa or Latin America once it’s translated? So it was important then to bring in persons with disabilities from those respective countries and say, is this okay?

Have we got the balance right? Because what we didn’t want to do is offend people and that’s become the story. We wanted the story to be the world’s biggest global campaign, non disability inclusion. And I think the team did a great job.

Jill: One of the things I like about that is that it showed people with disabilities as humans.

Yeah. And sometimes when we watch the Paralympics, we get the look at this amazing person and they manage to overcome their disability and [00:34:00] achieve great things, and in a way that they’re perfect or they’re, there’s some kind of standard that we set Paralympians up to that we don’t necessarily set able bodied people up to.

Do you find that this is breaking that down a little bit? Or do we hope that the media stopped using the inspiration porn?

Craig Spence: Yeah. Yeah. We were really keen that we didn’t want it to be inspiration porn and that you have a lot of media who use the Paralympics for inspiration porn and you ask any Paralympian then they don’t look in the context of sport.

They can be an inspiration. So I watch a Paralympian compete at the Paralympic games. Does it inspire me to get physically active and realize that a, a challenge is an opportunity to do something. Different. Yes, it does. Where it gets really frustrating is if you are with a person with a disability and someone just walks up to them in the street and goes, you are such an inspiration, or you’re so courageous.

And it’s like, why? Cause I’ve gone through a door do you know what I mean? There’s nothing inspiration about what going down a street. So we are really keen to, to try get rid of that and just show that persons with disabilities are like you and I. And I mean, I have to say from my point of view, I very rarely had engaged with persons with disabilities until I took this job.

I went to school with a lad who had a disability and I realized then that he had the same interests as anyone else. And then when I came to the I P C, I realized that persons with disabilities could do the same job as anyone else. Do you know what I mean? It’s like I always remember a colleague who’s a wheelchair user.

Said, I don’t really need my legs that don’t work to do my job. I need my head and my arms and to function and that’s it really. So it’s, it’s that has really opened my eyes and if we can achieve that around the world where people don’t judge people on their disability, but their ability to do something, I think the world will be a much better place.

Jill: I really wanna know a little bit about what goes into creating the cla or revising the classification system.

[00:36:00] Yep. Actually, cuz I mean, it does take years. So for the fans, like if they don’t understand how slow an international organization have to move, like, why does it take so long?

Craig Spence: It takes so long because, Well, we are a membership based organization. We’ve got 200 organizations and we’ve got thousands of athletes out there, and it’s important that we gather views.

The classification code is, is a document that brings together how classification should be done in the pa in the Paralympic movement. It’s not, we’re not saying this is what you need to do in wheelchair basketball is spot specific. It’s a, it’s a, a holistic picture on how you should classify what impairments are eligible for the Paralympic movement and then what happens if you’re unhappy with the classification and things like that.

So it’s important that we, we began views from around the world, not just from our members, but our athletes. And we’ve made a real conscious effort this time round to get the athlete viewpoint into the classification code. So we’ve got the views of the constituents there, but classification will also continue to evolve because of sport science.

And it’s important that we then look at the sport science and the research that’s available to marry the two. So we will never have a chord that is, this is the final chord and it’s never gonna change again. It will con, classification will continue to evolve. The more we get to know about disability and how it impacts on a person’s ability to do sport.

So the process is really long where you bring everything together. You get persons, you get the views of, you get the views of the constituents, and you marry it with a sport science, you then draft a code. And listen to the responses and then you stress test it to get, again, people’s views on it. Are we heading in the right direction?

And then we go through a long process where I think two or three times we have drafts for people to feedback on. And then we get to it has to go to the general assembly. They’re the people who are the, the final decision makers in the Paralympic movement. So we go to our membership who meet every two [00:38:00] years and say, this is the new classification code.

Approve it. And if they approve it, then we look at the implementation process. And one thing that we’ve learned from previous experiences where we’ve maybe not done it particularly well is. You don’t change the Cal classification roles, rules mid-cycle. So it’s really important that we don’t cause obviously some of these decisions could impact an athlete’s career.

And so therefore what we want to try to do is work, work out when the implementation is. So, it’s at the end of a cycle, at the start of a new cycle when those changes will be implemented. But without classification, we don’t have a paralympic movement. And it’s important because it’s such an important topic that we get as many views as possible from around the world look at what we can do to make it better.

Jill: Every once in a while you get a story of an athlete or team gaming the system. What is the reaction from other athletes when that

Alison: happens?

Craig Spence: Yeah. I mean, look, in every single sport, whether it’s paralympic sport or Olympic sport, there are always rumors of people doing wrongdoings and breaking the rules.

That, that is such as life, whether it’s a law outside of sport or, or the rules of sport. There will always be people who try to bend the rules and go around the rules. When we hear that someone’s broken the rules, we need the evidence to support it. You can’t charge someone on rumor. And with classification, we hear many rumors about classification.

But what people don’t understand is. When we classify an athlete or when classify as classify the athletes, not only are they observing the athlete and doing the assessment of the athlete, they’re also looking at the medical documentation that’s provided by a doctor.

And that’s confidential information. So I’m, we’re forever getting people saying, oh, that athlete’s not in that class. They’re not, that they don’t have this disability. Well, we have the medical documentation signed by a doctor [00:40:00] that says otherwise now we can’t publish everyone’s medical records.

That would go against all the G D P R guidelines in the world. But there’s a system in place. Can the system be better? Yes, it can. Are we doing steps to make it better? Yes, we are. Is everyone committed on that journey? 100%. Absolutely. We are. And it’s really important that we do that. And it’s really important that when people do break the law, the rules of what we’re trying to to do that we find out and we have the evidence to back it up.

And in the Paralympic movement, we’re very clear that if you intentionally misrepresent your disability and your impairment and we find out and we can back it up with the evidence, then you’ll be punished. And it’s, it can be a suspension of up to four years. So we take this absolutely seriously.

In the same way that we also look at doping. We’re a signature of the wire code and we don’t want people to be doping in our sports. So again, the system’s in place to deal with that.

Alison: How complicated does medical exemption and wa I get for you guys? That must be crazy.

Craig Spence: That’s why we have the therapeutic use exemptions.

Yeah, that’s why we have tea. So obviously due to the nature of some person’s disabilities they may need to take things that are on the prohibited list and therefore we have a committee that, that really does look at tea. So yeah, it can be very busy in the buildup to the games.

And that’s why it’s so important that we work with our national Paralympic committees and with our international federations to really educate the athletes and the coaching communities about the need to, to on what’s on the prohibited list and Tues and such like, so yeah. It’s complex.

Jill: Thank you so much Craig. You can follow Craig on Twitter. He’s at Craig Spence and on LinkedIn he is Craig Williams Spence. And on Instagram he is Craig Spence, 79. We’ll have links to all of those in the show notes and we will bring you part two of the interview later in June. Forward promotion. [00:42:00] We’re getting into Rush Belarus.

Oh yes, we are. So look forward to that. And more, we do talk more than just those. Those two countries, so it’s exciting.


Alison: Welcome to Shk

Jill: fk. Now it is the time of the show where we check in with our team, keep the flame alive. These are past guests of the show and listeners who make up our citizenship of Shk Fk, our very own country. Starting off with Anika Masinsky, who has been named to the 20 23, 20 24 US Women’s National Team for Nordic combined.

Alison: Chuck Aoki has been named co-captain of Team U S A, wheelchair Rugby,

Jill: and Steve Empt has been named to the National Wheelchair Curling Team for the 20 23 20 24 season. All very exciting. I’m ready. Make me happy. I’m also ready to take a moment to thank our patrons who keep our flame alive. If you would like to come become a patron, you can get access immediately to our bonus episodes with Rural Changes for Pariss 2024.

Becoming a Patron is really your way of supporting everything we do and making sure it continues to happen. So there are many other benefits. I’ll starting at just $2 a month. Flame live Look for the Patreon link or just check the show notes.

Paris 2024 Update

Jill: We didn’t tape that long ago, our last episode, and there’s so much going on with Paris.

Alison: That’s what’s gonna happen. Now. There’s just gonna be this avalanche every week of things happening good and bad. This is not so good.

Jill: Right? So There will likely be 100,000 fewer free tickets for the opening ceremonies, which in a way that boggles that whole number, boggles my mind first off.

So the original plans were to have 600,000 spectators along theen. 500,000 tickets. [00:44:00] Were going to be free on the high keys from Pon Dosta Litz to Pon Delena. And then there were a hundred thousand paid tickets, which still is bigger than a stadium.

Alison: Enormous. I mean, maybe in South America there’s a few football stadiums that seat those kind of numbers, but.

Not that we’ve ever seen before at, at an

Jill: Olympics, right? So, Valerie Pires, president of Ill de France said that they called for an upper limit of 500,000 tickets total after arguing that transport capacity would be insufficient to cope with the 600,000 people. There’s also safety concerns with that many people as well.

And this is all from inside the games.

Alison: We’ve been talking about, we wonder how this is gonna work in practical terms, in safety, security, moving people around. So we’ll see. I think this is still gonna be a wait and see and we’ll wonder how this is going to pan out. I will say. I wonder if this changed because of how well opening ceremonies tickets sold in the last round of ticketing.

Are we going to have, are we going to increase the number of paid tickets?

Jill: That’s a good question. Although I bet if you’re talking about being the president of the I De France, I think they’re worried more about how are we gonna deal with several hundred thousand people descending on a small area for a few hours and then all trying to leave at the same time.

To which I would say try to pack a jacket that you could turn into a pillow and just sit tight for a while. Yeah. Don’t

Alison: be one of those people on the plane who jump up the minute the plane lands at this event because you’re not getting off the concourse anytime soon.

Jill: Right. So the. [00:46:00] Organizing committee is actually going to have a press conference the day after we tape this, so we will try to put more details on our Facebook group or talk about it there a little bit, and when we come back from our respective places, we will talk about this on the show and see what’s going on.

Meanwhile Paris 2024 has had to apologize for mistakes in the ticket process in which a athletes were very upset, and this happened a lot in athletics, or I wouldn’t say a lot, but the calendar errors in the system meant that if you were buying eight sessions of tickets, they messed up the day. And the session.

So people who wanted to, like family members and loved ones who wanted to see potentially their athletes compete, bought that session and then found out once they got the ticket, oh, the event I wanted to see was not in that session. So wow, that’s

Alison: a big mistake. That’s a big mistake for anyone because if, for instance, you absolutely want to see, you know, hammer throw and now hammer throws not in your session, and these are not cheap tickets.

These are not the 24 Euro tickets.

Jill: No. Highly unlikely. And they’re gonna have to hope they can get them on resale, on the resale platform. And yeah, it’s nice that Paris 2024 admitted the issue, but they did say

It sounds like how he was quoted in inside the games was that well, you know, for three of the SE sessions, it’s good cuz you’re getting more than you thought you were buying. You got more sessions than you thought they were. You were buying five sessions. There was actually fewer events than what you thought you were getting.

So he was, sounds like he was looking, well, you know, you’re getting more than what you paid for, but it doesn’t matter if you, Tony Stein. Uh, Tony Eskin. Yes. But it doesn’t really matter if you didn’t get the s the event you wanted that day.

Alison: It’s [00:48:00] not the number. I mean, few people, especially when we’re talking about athletics, are looking at how many things they’re getting in their session.

They’re looking at the events. Mm-hmm.

Jill: So, I don’t know, swampy, organizer said that the top selling top five best selling tickets for so far have been athletics at basketball, beach volleyball, football, and tennis, all very long tournaments. I wonder, I wonder if they did this on the nu the number of tickets that sold because like break-in sold out.

I would call that a success.

Alison: And swimming’s not here. And I can’t imagine swimming isn’t selling well because people have been complaining about not being able to get sessions of swimming that have metal

Jill: events. Don’t know. But, uh, yeah, a lot of these tournaments run the whole course of the game. So of course there are lots and lots of sessions available, so we’ll, we’ll see.

third phase of the program or third phase of ticket sa. Third phase of ticket sales with an additional 3.5 million tickets will be on sale at the end of 2023.

Alison: Programming note, we are planning on having Ken Hanscomb come back and just give us an update on what’s happening. We’re traveling to Paris and tickets, so hang tight.

We’re gonna fill that in probably later in the

Jill: summer. Excellent. Some sad news out of Tahiti. This was reported by Frank Chu and also got some information from R N nz. Two major floods have occurred in Tepo, the site of the surfing competition. This has destroyed about 50 homes, took about eight to 12 cars out to sea and.

I would’ve loved to seen this in person because the new Minister of Youth in Sports of Polynesia, Nama Tamari mentioned the possibility of the area dropping out of the games because of the damage that happened. But the new president of French Polynesia Brotherson said, oh, no, no, no. [00:50:00] Will be good. And so as did Barbara Martins Neo, the site manager for the Paris 2024 Organizing Committee for the surfing event, who said quote, and this is a quote from Fran Xhu via Google Translate.

We were not affected by the floods because the area chosen for the center is unsinkable. She specified, quoted by the A F P. I

Alison: hope that is an issue with translation because does she mean that because you surf on the ocean, you can’t sink where the surfing will take place? Because if that’s what she means, that’s incredibly insulting to the people who suffered from this tragedy and the devastation that it’s caused.

I don’t think that’s what she meant. But yikes.

Jill: Right. And maybe, maybe the area on land is a little rockier, but I, I really got visions of the Titanic when she said unsinkable, like, oh, oh, that’s, that’s, you’re in dangerous territory. There you are asking for trouble. But we shall see that we still have a lot of time.

It’ll be interesting to see how much damage there is. The French Polynesia VP and minister of Housing, Renee to Majaro said the rebuild should cost about 500,000 US dollars, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but I think it’s probably a lot in that area.

Alison: This is one of those things that seemed like a really great idea on paper and seemed like, oh, this’ll be so much fun and now all these pieces are just not lining up. And we, we were at already, no, there’s not gonna be no spectators at surfing. They didn’t have housing before this started. So we’ll see how this plans out.

I think you’re gonna end up with these people. Staying on cruise ships

Jill: would not be surprised. It’ll be interesting.

Alison: They’ll just be throwing the surfers off the side of the cruise ship cuz it’s gotta be [00:52:00] unsinkable.

Jill: Get the ocean. A new event. There’s a new event.

Alison: Plunging for distance, be throwing surfers for distance. For those people who missed out on the shot put event in their athletic tickets.

Jill: I know they say no tickets for surfing and I keep thinking they’re gonna have spectators there somehow, and it’s not gonna happen. But I wanted to double check that there was nothing for sale. There’s still nothing for sale cuz you can’t get anybody there.

Alison: And now everything’s washed away.

Jill: So yeah, we will see how the weather holds up and hopefully they can rebuild everything and get these families back to homes and taken care of as soon as possible. So hopefully all goes well there and that the weather holds out for the rest of this season. So that is going to do it for this week.

Let us know what you think of the IPC’s strategic plan.

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Jill: Join us again next week. Uh, we’ve got some good stuff coming up. Again, we’ll have Craig Spence, part two talking about Russia, talking about Belarus and what is in store for them. Perhaps we don’t know. Uh, there’s that. There’s also a book club coming up. We’ll be discussing Sana Masters, the Hard Parts.

So if you’ve read that, let us know what you think. Until next time, thank you so much for listening and to keep the flame alive.