Note: This is the first in a series of posts on the Vancouver Winter Paralympic Games. I have a particular interest since I am a Paralympic torch bearer and have been an active participant in 'leveraging' the Games to advance the disability agenda for all people with disabilities not just athletes.
The decision to appoint former Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan as Canada's Ambassador to the Vancouver Paralympic Games is a good one. His former political leadership is one reason. Another is his continuing role as an inspiration to people with disability. It is hard for those of us who do not have a disability to imagine what it is like to live in a world where no one like you is ever in charge.There are 650 Million people with disabilities – the world's largest minority group.
Most of us remember Sam at the Turin Olympics closing ceremonies by accepting and twirling the flag on behalf of Vancouver the next host city. Arguably that was the largest audience to ever watch a leader with a disability. Sam still receives letters from around the world from people with disabilities who never imagined themselves as a participant in society let alone Mayor of one of Canada's largest cities.
Those who travel with Sam know how much adoration and respect he still attracts. Whether wheeling through the streets of Vancouver, at public gatherings or having a restaurant meal there is always a steady stream of people (both disabled and non-disabled) who want to speak with him or simply to be in his presence. He is a tangible manifestation of a vision many of us have – to see the talents, leadership, and creativity of people with disabilities tackling the tough challenges societies face today. I can imagine leaders of the future pointing to Sam Sullivan's presence on televison during the Turin and Vancouver Games as the turning point in their life.
Before the Games began we asked Sam to write about Sport, Belonging and the Games for our new wesite on belonging. Click here to view his article.http://www.appartenance-belonging.org/en/
A video clip of Sam's twirling the Olympic flag in Turin is also linked to this article.
To see what Sam is up to these day with his Global Civic Policy Society: http://www.globalcivic.org/