Paralympics organisers defend sponsor Atos
in face of protests
Disability activists angry about company's involvement with controversial
incapacity benefit 'fit to work' tests
London 2012 organisers have defended the involvement of IT giant Atos in
the Paralympics, amid threats of a "day of action" from protesters during the
On the eve of the opening ceremony, organisers said they were on track to
deliver the biggest and best Paralympics ever, and defended the
involvement of corporate backers in staging them.
Atos is a main sponsor of the Paralympics, providing the technology that
underpins the information system that is relied on by officials, athletes and
the media. Its name also adorns billboards on the entrance to the Park and
the lanyards of the accreditations worn by athletes, the media, volunteers
But some disability rights activists are angry about its involvement because
it also has the £100m government contract to carry out the controversial
tests that determine whether claimants of incapacity benefit are "fit to work".
UK Uncut activists have promised a day of action on 31 August, when they
will attempt to shut down Atos's central London headquarters.
Tara Flood, who won a Paralympic gold in Barcelona in 1992 before
becoming a campaigner and educator, has said: "It is a shocking irony that
Atos is a main sponsor of London 2012 whilst destroying disabled people's
lives on behalf of the government."
But just as the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and
Paralympic Games (Locog) was forced to defend the involvement of
contentious sponsors such as Dow ahead of the Olympics, it has stood
squarely behind Atos ahead of the Paralympics.
"Atos is an incredibly valuable technology partner. They have been involved
for many years now. They provide a portal for the volunteers, they provide a
system to manage the information process and the distribution of results.
They are a critical and valued member of delivering these Games," said the
Locog chief executive, Paul Deighton.
He also defended the involvement of sponsors more widely, saying that
without their contribution the Games would not happen in their current form.
"All of our Olympic sponsors are also Paralympic sponsors. It isn't really an
issue of having independent Paralympic sponsors. All our sponsors make
this Games possible. Our budget of just over £2bn, around £1bn of it comes
from cash or services from our sponsors," Deighton said.
"Also, it is the contributions national sponsors make to the national Olympic
and Paralympic movement that then fund the support of the team. Without
the sponsors, neither Games would be what they are."
Unlike the Olympics, which have a clean venues policy, corporate branding
is allowed within Paralympic venues.
Deighton and Peter Hendy, the Transport for London commissioner, urged
Londoners to continue to plan their journeys to avoid busy times on the
public transport network.
Although there are 2.5m ticket holders at the Paralympics compared with
8.8m at the Olympics, on the busiest days on the Olympic Park there will be
a comparable number of people pouring into Stratford.
Hendy said that with children back at school, the summer holidays over and
a range of other major sporting and cultural events happening during the 11
days of the Games it was important Londoners continued to use the Get
Ahead of the Games website.
The final leg of the torch relay on Wednesday and the marathon on the final
day of the Games on 9 September, when a large number of roads will be
closed, are expected to be particularly congested.
But Hendy said that the experiences of the Olympics had shown that
London's transport system could cope.
"We learned the system has enormous redundancy and that our customers
are profoundly sensible. They don't regard small half hour disruptions as the
end of the world, they find another way to go," he said.
Deighton said the Paralympics were on course to become the first to sell out
to paying ticketholders. Around 2.4m tickets have been sold already, with
the remaining 100,000 likely to be made available in blocks of 10,000
throughout the Paralympics. The opening ceremony on Wednesday night
has sold out.
The London mayor, Boris Johnson, said he was convinced the feelgood
factor that gripped the city and the nation during the Olympics would be
maintained through the Paralympics.
"My message to London and the world is that these are going to be a
fantastic Games, an amazing festival of exertion and achievement," said
"To those who think they have had enough sport already and have reached
satiety. As Margaret Thatcher almost once said, when it comes to the
Olympics and Paralympics there is no such thing as satiety."
The 277 ParalympicsGB athletes were on Tuesday night officially welcomed
into the Paralympic Village, while in Stoke Mandeville the Paralympics torch
relay that will conclude in the stadium during the opening ceremony began.
Johnson insisted that investment would continue into making the London
Underground network more accessible after the Paralympics. Around a
quarter of underground stations have step free access, but the West End is
particularly badly served.
"It was the Paralympics and the necessity to get ready for it that gave us the
impetus to spend very substantial sums at Green Park, King's Cross and
elsewhere. That programme will continue. We can't do everything at once
and people will appreciate these are considerable sums of money," said
"But as far as we can in tough times we are spending money to make
London more accessible. These will be the most accessible Games ever."