London Latest - Jordan Withdraws Paralympians; TfL Dismisses Accessibility Fears
Jordan Withdraws Paralympians
Jordan has withdrawn three men from its Paralympic team after they were charged with sex offenses in Northern Ireland.
The three men, two wheelchair power lifters and a trainer, are accused of sexual assault and voyeurism during their stay at a training camp. A local court had granted the men bail, enabling them to travel to London to compete.
But LOCOG confirmed on Thursday that the Jordanian Paralympic Committee had withdrawn the men from their team for the Paralympics.
Omar Sami Qaradhi, 31, Faisal Hammash, 35, and Motaz Al Junaidi, 45, all members of the Jordanian power-lifting squad, are returning to Jordan. Also Thursday, it was reported that Jordan’s ruler, King Abdullah II, has begun looking into the case.
The trio are due back in court in Northern Ireland on Oct. 18.
Transport Chiefs Dismiss Accessibility Fears
Transport for London tells Around the Rings
it's “confident” of being able to move Paralympic athletes around the city with ease during the Games.
New lifts have been installed as part of TFL's accessibility upgrades. (ATR/Panasonic Lumix)
With less than a week to go until the start of the Paralympics, TFL’s director of Games transport Mark Evers outlined how the network would transport competitors and spectators around London despite many Underground stations still not being accessible.
“We’re very pleased that we’re going to be hosting the most accessible Paralympic Games ever in London,” he told ATR
“We’ve got 8,500 buses in London and every single one of those has low floors, has a wheelchair ramp; all of London’s taxi fleet are wheelchair accessible. The Docklands Light Railway, which will be critical in linking the key venues in the east of London, is 100 percent step-free and wheelchair accessible as well.”
Evers said that TFL had done a lot of work to improve accessibility for disabled people on the Underground: “It turns 150 years old next year and the Victorian engineers that built it did a fantastic job but accessibility wasn’t top of their list.
“But we’ve got a network that has 66 step-free stations currently. All the venue stations are step-free, all the key interchange stations and all the key stations in London are accessible as well, so more work for us to do there, but we’re confident we’re going to be able to move people around London no matter what their mobility requirements.”
Evers added that the International Paralympic Committee has told TFL it was “exceptionally happy” with the transport provisions for the Games. But he still urges spectators to plan their journey as far in advance as possible.
Accessibility improvements such as new lifts, wider ticket gates and ramp access have been part of a $10.3 billion upgrade of the transport network in recent years. That investment means that London currently has one of the most accessible transport networks in the world, but Evers stressed that he wanted improvements to continue beyond the Games.
London 2012's street dressing has always been dual, so no changes needed for the Paralympics. (ATR/Panasonic Lumix)
“Everything that we’re doing has been with a view to longer term benefit. But an example of something which we have done for the Olympics and the Paralympics has been the use of boarding ramps at 16 key stations,” he said.
“That’s worked so well during the Olympics that we plan to keep it on after the Paralympics as well, so that’s just one simple example of an operational change we’ve put in for the Games – it’s worked really well and will benefit Londoners and visitors to London long after the Games have gone.”
The issue of long-term benefits is also being promoted heavily by the Mayor of London’s office. “It’s all about the legacy; it’s not just about the two weeks of competition for us,” a spokesperson for Boris Johnson told ATR
The Mayor’s office also told ATR
that they were trying to encourage as many people as possible to use their website inclusivelondon.com
, which helps visitors find facilities around the city that have access capabilities.
Torch Relay Celebrations Begin
The Paralympic countdown clock in Trafalgar Sqaure with one week to go. (ATR/Panasonic Lumix)
Paralympic Torch Relay celebrations begin on Friday with the lighting of a ceremonial cauldron in Trafalgar Square.
On Wednesday, groups of disabled and non-disabled scouts lit National Flames at the summit of the highest peaks in each of the four home nations: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Flames then traveled to the nation’s capital cities to be the focus of celebrations.
Trafalgar Square will welcome the English flame at 8 a.m. BST with a special celebration in front of the National Gallery, which will have its columns adorned with Agitos – the Paralympic symbol.
LOCOG chair Sebastian Coe and Mayor Boris Johnson will make formal speeches as the ceremonial cauldron is lit from the Flame housed in a miner's lamp. Organizers stressed that the celebration was more of a “media event” and spectators in the area “could join in if they wanted”.
Torch Relay producer Deborah Hale said: “We are expecting many people to come out for the Paralympic torch relay – just as they did for the Olympic torch relay. I think we will have a very positive response.”
Torch Relay producer Deborah Hale. (ATR/Panasonic Lumix)
Similar events will take place in Belfast on Saturday, in Edinburgh on Sunday and in Cardiff on Monday before all four flames are taken on Tuesday to Stoke Mandeville, the spiritual home of the Paralympic Movement.
There they will be united during a special ceremony to create the London 2012 Paralympic Flame. A torch relay over 24 hours and covering 92 miles will conclude with the lighting of the cauldron at the Olympic Stadium to officially open the Paralympic Games on Aug. 29.
Written and reported in London by
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