Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this very special and important event in support of the Singapore National Paralympic Council. It is traditional at such occasions to start remarks with recognition of VIPs in the room. Indeed at some events they seem to take up about half of the prepared remarks.
But this evening I hope you will forgive me if I do it a little differently, in part because there are so many to mention, but also because this is one of those events where most of the people I would want to honour are not here.
They are, of course, disabled athletes in Singapore and all round the world and, through them, everyone with a disability who aspires to fulfil their potential.
Because that, in my view, is what this event is actually all about.
Ahead of the London 2012 Games the UK government said that its aim was to “help to drive forward the cause of disability equality by changing attitudes, improving access and opening up new opportunities across sport, culture and business”.
We then delivered what I think almost everyone would agree was a phenomenally successful Paralympic Games that did not suffer by comparison with what had been a phenomenally successful Olympics a few weeks before.
And in the time since then we have had the 7th ASEAN Para Games in January of this year where Singapore did fantastically, with 26 medals to celebrate, 7 Gold, 10 Silver and 9 Bronze.
And then the Commonwealth games where there wasn’t a separate paragames, it was integrated as part of the overall programme.
But reflecting on the Paralympics of 2012 I am conscious that some argue that we shouldn’t regard what happened on the track, on the field, on the water or wherever as a success, because that’s not properly reflective of what it’s like to be disabled.
And they are right, of course, it’s not enough but having said that nor do I agree that it is meaningless.
And I would give you one example, which was the decision by the Straits Times in February last year to name Laurentia Tan as their athlete of the year. Not their paraathlete of the year, their athlete, full stop.
I thought that was fantastic, and actually wrote to the Straits Times to say so, and they were good enough to run the letter with a picture of Laurentia meeting The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge here at Eden Hall in that room just over there.
With her were a number of other Singaporean paraathletes who we had got to know through a series of events leading up to the 2012 games.
And I mention all that because at the end of the day this is about making sure that disabled people can live their lives to the full, and to do that requires two things.
One is to ensure that there is no inequality of treatment for disabled and non-disabled people. That they can live their lives normally, access buildings, that they live in inclusive communities.
The other thing it requires is support, financial and emotional. And there are many who provide that and they deserve recognition.
And that’s why I am so pleased that we are all here tonight. We get to celebrate sporting success, and make sure that translates into the wider action we need to reach out, through that success, to wider communities.
And we get to raise money…please make sure you have a look at the auction items…
And we get to thank those who are doing so much to support this agenda. The SNPC itself, but also their many sponsors, listed over here.
And as the British High Commissioner I am, of course, delighted that one of those listed is BP…
BP is an International Partner of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and has supported the London 2012 Paralympics, as well as various National Paralympic Committees and athletes competing at the Games.
It has previously announced support for National Paralympic Committees in countries such as the UK, USA, Angola, Turkey and Trinidad and Tobago, amongst others.
Today they signal their intent to extend it to Singapore as well.
But I started by saying I wasn’t going to single anyone out, and I won’t, because I want to say thank you to everyone in the room.
Enjoy the rest of the evening.