Carrying the Jamaican flag in tonight’s Opening Ceremony of the 14th Paralympic Games at Olympic Stadium in Stratford, east London is so far the single biggest honour in Tanto Campbell’s 12-year career as a special athlete.
“It’s a great honour to be able to represent my country in this way. It is not everyday someone gets the chance to carry the flag in such a prestigious and big event in front of thousands of cameras and the entire world,” Campbell told the Jamaica Observer yesterday after the team’s final training session before the start of the largest Paralympic Games ever.
Veteran Jamaican athlete Tanto Campbell works out ahead of the 14th Paralympic Games recently. (Photo: Bryan Cummings)
As she did for the Olympic Games nearly a month ago, Queen Elizabeth II will declare open the Games at what is expected to be an elaborate ceremony tonight.
“I am proud to be a Jamaican right now,” said Campbell who also bore the nation’s flag at the 2006 World Champion-ships in Holland, but he said there is no comparison between the two events.
“This is the biggest stage for disabled athletes and Jamaica will see us and you guys are here with us, so all of Jamaica will see us at our best,” said the captain of the small three-member team which includes Alphanso Cunningham and Sylvia Grant.
While there are expectations for Jamaica to win up to four medals, Campbell told the Observer nothing should be taken for granted, but they will not go down without a fight.
“We are Jamaicans and we will fight for what we want,” Campbell told the Observer. “It’s not going to be easy, but we’ve trained hard and are ready.”
Cunningham will be the first in action when he competes in the final of the F52/53 javelin on September 4 — six days after the Opening Ceremony.
Campbell will compete in the F54/55/56 discus a day later, while Cunningham and Sylvia Grant, who have won six Paralympic medals from six previous appearances, will compete on September 6.
The athletes are scheduled to return home on the 12th.
Over 4,200 athletes with varying disabilities from 165 countries, inclusive of 15 debutants, will compete in 503 events spanning 20 sporting disciplines over the next 11 days. Caribbean nation Trinidad and Tobago returns after a 24-year break.
The number of countries taking part is 19, more than the 14 which took part four years ago in Daegu, South Korea, while there are 250 more athletes expected to take part here.
While Jamaica will have just three competitors, a number of countries have sent smaller teams, while host nation Great Britain has the largest delegation, 288, followed by China with 282 and USA with 216.
Thirty-four countries have just one representative, while 32 have just two taking part.
The Games are expected to be the first to have sold-out events as over 2.3 million tickets have been accounted for so far. On Monday, organisers released a further 70,000 to meet mounting demands.
Days after the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games on August 12, almost all signs of what had become the ubiquitous Olympic rings all but disappeared — replaced by the Paralympic Ajitos which is three crescent-shaped symbols — red, blue and green — facing from left to right.