Competing in their first international test since the Paralympic Games, over 400 athletes from 40 countries around the world are looking to continue the impressive form they showed in Beijing as they arrive in Manchester to compete at the 2009 BT Paralympic World Cup.
Triple Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius and cycling, swimming and wheelchair basketball medallists Jody Cundy, Natalie Jones and Simon Munn have today officially opened the event, with Olympic cycling champion Sir Chris Hoy joining Murray Treseder's GB team for their final wheelchair basketball training session.
357 medals will be presented at three world-class venues in Manchester this week, with men's and women's wheelchair basketball being held at the Regional Arena from 20-23 May and athletics taking over the venue on Sunday 24 May.
Track cycling is held across two and a half days of competition from 20-22 May at the Manchester Velodrome, whist swimming will be held across two days at the Manchester Aquatics Centre on 24-25 May, with the latter during the BBC2 live broadcast from 15:00-17:15.
BT Ambassador Oscar Pistorius, back in action following a boating accident in South Africa in March, is relishing his first major international competition in the four year cycle leading up to the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
"I have been training hard over the past couple of months and am delighted to have made a full recovery from the accident," said the South African.
"The BT Paralympic World Cup is such a crucial event in my development and I've done everything I can to be back to full fitness. I thank the team around me, including my coach and BT for their support and am really looking forward to Sunday's competition, where I will race in the 100m as well as the 400m, which is being held for the first time."
BT is the title sponsor of the Paralympic World Cup; the sponsorship runs up to and includes the 2012 BT Paralympic World Cup.
Suzi Williams, BT Group Marketing and Brand Director, said, "BT has a long history of supporting disability sport in the UK - in fact BT was the first corporate supporter of the British Paralympic Association 20 years ago.
"That's why we are so excited to be here this week, starting our journey to 2012 as the new title partner of the BT Paralympic World Cup. BT is fully committed to doing everything we can to help make this event the very best it can be. We are delighted to welcome athletes from all over the world for six days of fantastic competition."
The BT Paralympic World Cup is the first major international competition in Europe in the four years cycle leading up to the London 2012 Paralympic Games and a great test for British and international athletes.
BT Ambassador Chris Hoy, who trains alongside the British Paralympic cycling team at the Manchester Velodrome, was exclusively involved in the GB men's final wheelchair basketball training session and said, "I'm continually inspired by the skill and talent Paralympic athletes display and it was incredible to see first-hand today the dynamic skills involved in wheelchair basketball. I wish all the athletes competing in Manchester the best of luck."
GB wheelchair basketball bronze medallist Joe Bestwick is looking ahead to the competition and said, "We are excited to be playing against some of the best teams in the world - Australia of course set the benchmark when they became Paralympic champions. We have a fantastic rivalry with them and are looking forward to getting stuck into the tournament."
Beijing double cycling champion Jody Cundy, competing in the 1km time-trial and team sprint in Manchester, said, "There is always such a buzz around the city when the BT Paralympic World Cup is on and being able to compete on home territory is really important to the British team."
Manchester will be host to an impressive 174 Paralympic medallists from Beijing, including British swimmer Natalie Jones.
"I've had a great history competing at the BT Paralympic World Cup and am excited at the prospect of competing in the 100m freestyle this year," said Jones, competing in the S6 category.
"The BBC will be broadcasting live from the swimming for the first time and demonstrates how important the BT Paralympic World Cup has become."
President of the International Paralympic Committee Sir Phillip Craven MBE said, "The 2009 BT Paralympic World Cup once again sets the stage for record athletic performances on an elite level, and ultimately inspires and excites Paralympic fans around the world."
ParalympicsGB Chief Executive Phil Lane added, "The BT Paralympic World Cup is a fantastic opportunity for British athletes to compete against international competition in front of a home crowd, something they will being doing at the Paralympic Games in London of course. I'm sure they are looking forward to it and I am sure the spectators are looking forward to seeing world-class Paralympic sport here in Manchester."
The official 2009 stakeholders of the BT Paralympic World Cup are the NWDA, Manchester City Council and UK Sport.
Peter Mearns, Executive Director of Communications and Marketing at the NWDA, said, "The BT Paralympic World Cup has become one of the highlights of Manchester's exciting sporting calendar. As a major international sporting event it makes a significant contribution to the regional economy and raises the profile of Manchester around the world.
"It also gives our talented local athletes a chance to shine in front of a home crowd, and hopefully this advantage will result in plenty of medals for Northwest and British athletes."
Manchester City Council is to hosting the event for the fifth year. Councillor Mike Amesbury, Executive Member for Culture and Leisure at Manchester City Council said, "Manchester's commitment to sport at all levels has been recognised by the city winning the prestigious title of the world's leading Sport City in 2008.
"The BT Paralympic World Cup continues to play a key role both as a launch pad for our elite athletes to go on and achieve greater success, as evidenced in Beijing last year and in the creation of opportunities in disability sport for residents, schools, clubs and communities across the city."
Simon Morton, Senior Events Consultant at UK Sport said, "UK Sport has supported the BT Paralympic World Cup since its inception five years ago and as the national sports events agency we are committed to staging world class events on home soil. In preparation for the 2012 Paralympic Games we are working closely with sports to develop a significant programme of major events.
"UK Sport's World Class Events Programme will invest over £15m between 2009 to 2012, not only providing British athletes with the valuable opportunity of competing on home soil ahead of London 2012, but also helping to build up a network of world-class event managers, volunteers and officials."
Tickets for the BT Paralympic World Cup are still on sale and can be purchased via the event website: www.btparalympicworldcup.com or the ParalympicsGB website: www.paralympics.org.uk or by calling 0844 8471622. Tickets cost £3 per session.
The BT Paralympic World Cup is run in association with ParalympicsGB and is sanctioned by the IPC, the UCI and the IWBF.
The BBC, the official televised partner to the event, will broadcast live from the Manchester Aquatics Centre on Monday 25 May 2009 on BBC Television.
Rights free images can be downloaded at www.actionimages.com
Notes to Editors:
1. The BT Paralympic World Cup is currently the largest international annual multi-sport competition in disability sport. It has been staged annually in Manchester since 2005 and hosts up to 400 athletes from 41 countries competing in four sports athletics, swimming, track cycling and wheelchair basketball. The events are held at three world class venues: the Manchester Velodrome, Regional Athletics Arena and the Manchester City Aquatics Centre. The official dates for 2009 are 20-25 May.
2. BT is the title sponsor of the BT Paralympic World Cup for the next four years, and the Official Communications Services Partner for the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. BT will supply the communications services for London 2012 venues and facilities, as well as meeting the communications requirements of the athletes, National Olympic Committees and media. The BT Ambassador programme includes Ade Adepitan, Sir Chris Hoy, Frances Nicholls, Leon Taylor, Nathaniel Craig, Richard Fox, Shanaze Reade, Dame Kelly Holmes, Oscar Pistorius, Lee Pearson and Nathan Stephens. BT is a leader in inclusive communications products and services. For more information see: www.bt.com/inclusion
About BT: BT is one of the world's leading providers of communications solutions and services operating in 170 countries. Its principal activities include the provision of networked IT services globally; local, national and international telecommunications services to our customers for use at home, at work and on the move; broadband and internet products and services and converged fixed/mobile products and services. BT consists principally of four lines of business: BT Global Services, Openreach, BT Retail and BT Wholesale.
BT is proud to be the official communications services partner for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. In the year ended 31 March 2009, BT Group's revenue was £21,390 million. British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York. For more information, visit www.bt.com/aboutbt
3. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement. The IPC organises the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games, and serves as the International Federation for nine sports, for which it supervises and co-ordinates the World Championships and other competitions. The IPC is committed to enabling Paralympic athletes to achieve sporting excellence and to developing sport opportunities for persons with a disability from the beginner to elite level. In addition, the IPC aims to promote the Paralympic values, which include courage, determination, inspiration and equality. For more information, please see the official website at www.paralympic.org and www.ParalympicSport.TV
4. The British Paralympic Association, which now operates as ParalympicsGB, was established in 1989. At the 1988 Paralympic Games in Seoul, representation from Great Britain was organised by an ad-hoc multi-disability committee. It was later decided that a more permanent organisation was needed to undertake such a huge task. Today, the role of ParalympicsGB has grown immensely and as well as sending teams to each Paralympic Games; it now provides support services to elite Paralympic squads. ParalympicsGB aims to be recognised domestically and internationally as a world leader in the development of high performance Paralympic sport both on and off the field of play, demonstrating sound ethical principles, high standards of governance and management and a clear, well-informed and cohesive athlete-focused approach in all aspects of its work. For more information visit: www.paralympics.org.uk.
5. UK Sport's mission is to work in partnership to lead sport in the UK to world-class success. Our overall goal is to help British athletes achieve a top four finish in the medal table at the 2012 Olympic Games and to retain second place at the Paralympic Games. To achieve this we focus on World Class Performance, thereby ensuring our athletes can access the support they need to compete and win at the highest level. This primary goal is supported by work in the areas of Worldwide Impact (building Britain's reputation on the global sporting scene) and World-Class Standards (ensuring British athletes succeed fairly and cleanly). Part of our remit is to co-ordinate and participate in the UK's efforts to bid for and stage major events on home soil. Through our Lottery-funded World Class Events Programme we have supported the bidding for and staging of over 100 events of World, European and Commonwealth status since 1997. Through this Programme, we are supporting the Paralympic World Cup for the fifth consecutive year. For more information visit www.uksport.gov.uk
6. Manchester City Council's commitment to sport at all levels has been recognised by the city winning the prestigious title of the world's leading Sport City. The Paralympic World Cup was one of 8 major events staged in Manchester in 2008 and it continues to play a key role in the creation of opportunities in disability sport for residents, schools, clubs and communities across the city. Manchester will continue to host major events that deliver real benefits to local people whilst also showcasing the city both as a vibrant place of national and international significance, and as a global sporting hub. For more information on Manchester's sports events programme visit: www.manchesterworldsport.com
7. The Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) leads the economic development and regeneration of England's Northwest and is responsible for: Supporting business growth and encouraging investment, matching skills provision to employer needs, creating the conditions for economic growth, connecting the region through effective transport and communication infrastructure and promoting the region's outstanding quality of life. As part of its work to support these objectives, the NWDA works with partners to secure world-class events, which are distinctive and capable of attracting large numbers of visitors from outside the region and which significantly, enhances the profile of the region. www.nwda.co.uk
8. BBC Sport is following its successful broadcasting of the 2008 Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games and continuing its support for the BT Paralympic World Cup, for which it has been the host broadcaster since its inception in 2005. In previous years the BBC has broadcast live from the Paralympic World Cup with a highlights package of all four sports. The BBC will broadcast the BT Paralympic World Cup live from the Manchester Aquatics Centre on Monday 25 May 2009 from 15:00-17:15.
Northwest Regional Development Agency, 19th May 2009