RunBlogRun Interview Exclusive: Ed Warner, co-chair, London, 2017 and chair of IPC Sports Technical Committee, by Stuart Weir

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Stuart Weir is covering the IPC World Athletics Championships, which is held over the next nine days in the London Olympic Stadium. Stuart meets the most interesting people during his pursuit of stories. Today, Stuart is interviewing Ed Warner, co-chair of London 2017 and chair of IPc Sports Techinical Committee. Until last month, Ed Warner was chair of British Athletics as well.

Ed Warner.JPGEd Warner, photo by Stuart Weir

On the eve of the IPC World Disability Athletics Championship, Stuart Weir caught up with Ed Warner, co-chair of London 2017 and chair of IPC Sports Technical Committee (and until last month chair of British Athletics).

My first question was on his assessment of the state of para athletics. He was very pleased with how it was developing: "The first thing to do is to look at standards and how they have moved on in the last two Paralympic cycles. There have been a host of new world records and area records set by athletes coming into these championships. So, firstly you judge it on performance and secondly, on the number of athletes meeting the standard and competing, and that has grown. Thirdly, on the level of audience engagement. I look at the crowds we are going to have here, compared to any previous championships and there is a step change. The number of broadcasters and media all point to a sport, which is growing".

One of the perennial issues with disability sport is the complexity of the event for the spectator, Warner did not duck the issue: "Classification remains the great mystery for the casual viewer. There are lots of different ways that classification gets explained but ultimately and you have to be an addict of the sport to get all the nuances and I struggle to see how we can break away from that. If you say, let's simplify it and have all these people competing together you get patently unfair competition. And that is the challenge to create a level playing field and ensure that it is explicable. We are not alone in athletics' with the problem, it is the same for lots of other Paralympic sports like swimming, cycling. Hopefully as you scroll forward a number of years, a lot of these things will be more easily understood because they will have become more ingrained in the sporting consciousness".

While everyone knows that Usain Bolt won the 100 metres in Rio, who won the paralympic 100 metres? Well there were 16 of them in the various classifications. Warner saw the problem but also saw the positive in it: "The upside of that is that you can come to any session and see a 100 metre final. And that is exciting in itself, a blue ribbon event. It cuts both ways, and I think this movement, this paralympic movement is partly about giving opportunity to people to make the best of their physical abilities in a sporting environment. And if you have a load of 100 metre finals, so be it".

We then talked about how to communicate para athletics to the public. I said that I had been uncomfortable with Doha 2015 World Championship slogan "Beyond incredible" as it seemed to present disability sport as a freak show. Warner replied: "I am with you on that and the slogan for the summer of athletics across both events is 'See the best be the next', trying to inspire young kids to take up sport. For me the 10 days of the world para championships is about seeing the best para athletes doing what they do and lots will break records. I personally am very keen that there is nothing that we do or say that patronizes athletes because they are supreme sporting beings. If they do incredible things it is in the same way that Bolt or Farah or Rutherford or Rudisha do incredible things because the average man, woman or child in the audience can't conceive of running as fast, jumping as high or throwing the distance they do. So it is the same across the two events for me. You want people to see through the disability and see the sportsperson and I think that is happening increasingly".

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