The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has announced that the Paralympic Order, the highest accolade anyone connected with the Paralympic Movement can achieve, is to be awarded to four people who have served the Movement with distinction.
The recipients are:
· Paul Bird, Australia - Paralympian and administrator with 40 years experience. President of Oceania Paralympic Committee since 2006.
· Rita von Driel, Netherlands – Coach and administrator. IPC Governing Board Member at Large since 2009.
· Greg Nugent, Great Britain – London 2012 Paralympic Games marketer and filmmaker behind the Paralympic documentary Rising Phoenix.
· Yasushi Yamawaki, Japan - Vice President, Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. IPC Governing Board Member at Large since 2013.
The Paralympic Order honours someone who has exemplified the Paralympic ideals through their actions, made remarkable strides in Paralympic to the sport or rendered outstanding services the Paralympic cause.
The Orders were announced on Saturday 11 December at the 2021 IPC General Assembly, which took place virtually this weekend. The Orders will be presented to each of the recipients at the 2022 IPC Membership Gathering.
Andrew Parsons, IPC President, said: “With the Paralympic Order this year we pay homage to four people to who the Paralympic Movement is indebted. Paul Bird and Rita van Driel are both educationists, and their tireless volunteering work has ensured that thousands of Para athletes have had opportunities to excel in sport, while the impact of their technical expertise will be felt for generations to come.
“Thanks to his work on London 2012 and with the amazing Rising Phoenix, Greg Nugent took the Paralympic Movement and our athletes to invaluable new audiences. And Yasushi Yamawaki’s adept negotiation skills helped ensure that the most important Paralympic Games in history took place when many doubted it was possible.
“The Paralympic Order is reserved for those who have gone above and beyond for the Paralympic Movement, and these four individuals have certainly done that.”
Background information and quote from each Paralympic Order recipient
About Paul Bird
Paul Bird has been at the front line of the Paralympic Movement for over 40 years. He represented Australia in swimming and athletics in the 1980 and 1984 Paralympic Games winning gold and silver medals. Off the field, he has also excelled as an administrator, as Australian Team Chef de Mission or Deputy Chef de Mission at five Paralympic Games, a Paralympics Australia Board Member (1993-2014) and as President of Oceania Paralympic Committee, a role he has served in for the last 15 years.
In this position, Paul has worked tirelessly with NPCs across the Oceania region to improve their governance and has provided mentoring support to numerous NPC Presidents. He has worked with IPC and governments to increase investments that support the capability and capacity of the NPCs through the promotion of inclusive practices.
Paul has made it his mission to create more opportunities for Para athletes across the region and to provide a voice and pathways for people who can often be hidden from public view. In recognition for his contribution to the development of Para sport in Australia, he was awarded an Order of Australia (OAM) in 2002.
"I am extremely honoured to be considered a worthy recipient of this prestigious award from the International Paralympic Committee. This journey commenced for me over 40 years ago as my rehabilitation, but my disability quickly become my ability to connect, challenge and lead change.
“We are a community that is made up of numerous outstanding individuals who have dedicated their lives to advocate for social inclusion and to provide hope, opportunity and a pathway for our disadvantaged through sport, so to be considered as worthy to join this prestigious group of recipients of the Paralympic Order is quite humbling.”
About Rita van Driel
Rita van Driel’s Paralympic journey began in 1990 when she started coaching Para snow sport athletes in her native Netherlands and went as a coach and guide for two athletes at the Tignes 1992 Paralympic Winter Games. Since then the gifted educationist has shared her coaching knowledge and technical expertise across numerous world cups, world championships and Paralympic Games to build more and better opportunities for Para athletes to practice sport.
Her administrative excellence has been seen her undertake such roles as Secretary-General of NPC Netherlands and for the last 12 years as a Member at Large of the IPC Governing Board. Organisations such as the IOC, FIS and World Archery have also benefitted from Rita’s know-how. Rita is also chair of the IPC’s Women in Sport Committee, which has played a pivotal role in advocating for more women to take up leadership positions across the Paralympic Movement.
“I’m thrilled and honoured to receive this recognition from the Movement, from my Paralympic family. Since my attendance at my first Paralympic Games in Tignes 1992 as a guide runner, I believed I could add my knowledge and experience to create better conditions for the athletes. And that is what always drove me in the different roles I have had in different organisations.
“It has been a privilege to be an IPC Governing Board member for the last 12 years, dealing with the challenge of finding the balance in all we do so that it is good for the athletes and good for the overall Movement. As a person, I have gained so much of being around in this Movement. All the opportunities I have had, also helped me to further develop my personal skills and build the most wonderful of networks.”
About Greg Nugent
Greg Nugent’s involvement with the Paralympic Movement began in 2009 in his home nation of Great Britain. He was appointed as London 2012 Brand, Marketing and Culture Director, and was instrumental in making London 2012 the most successful Paralympics to date. Working closely with the IPC, Greg helped reposition the Paralympics as a high-performance sport event and introduced many new aspects that today are standard for all organising committees, such as broadcast and commercial partners developing marketing campaigns that increase awareness of the Paralympic Games, as well as knowledge and interest in leading Para athletes.
Greg’s passion for the Movement continued as a Non-Executive Director of the British Paralympic Association from 2013-19 but is best exemplified by him being the driving force behind the seminal documentary film Rising Phoenix. The film examines the founding of the Paralympic Movement by German-born British neurologist Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann. Told through the life stories of nine Paralympians, Rising Phoenix details how the Paralympic Games have sparked a global movement and continue to change the way the world thinks about disability, excellence, diversity and human potential.
Greg produced and secured funding for the film that has been broadcast in over 190 countries on Netflix and won multiple awards, including two Sports Emmy’s for Outstanding Long Sports Documentary and Outstanding Music Direction.
“I’m extraordinarily proud of this award and very thankful to the IPC and the Paralympic Movement. It’s not lost on me that the people who tend to receive this award are all people who have followed in Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann’s vision of a more inclusive and equal world. I will keep up that mission and continue to be inspired by what we can do, not what we cannot do.”
About Yasushi Yamawaki
The final Paralympic Order recipient is Yasushi Yamawaki. The two-term IPC Governing Board Member at Large was fundamental to the success of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. As Vice President, Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Yasushi had a crucial role in liaising with Japanese public authorities after the historic postponement of the Games in March 2020.
Over the last decade, Yasushi has played a pivotal role in advancing the Paralympic Movement in Japan, both in his role as President of the Japanese Paralympic Committee and Chairman of the Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center.
He has played a key role in the successful development of I'mPOSSIBLE, the Japanese edition of the Paralympic education program which has been distributed to 36,000 primary and secondary schools across Japan - the children who learn from this unique educational program will become future leaders in creating an inclusive society. He has also been instrumental in strengthening the relationship between IPC and its Japanese commercial partners, such as Toyota, Panasonic, Bridgestone and ASICS by utilising his business background and the network he has been established in the business community.
“To receive the Paralympic Order is the most rewarding moment of my life, it is a true honour. It has been a privilege for me to work with so many amazing athletes and all the dedicated, committed and talented leaders and staff in the Paralympic Movement. I am deeply grateful to have done so.
“The Paralympic Movement has changed my life for the better. I will continue to be a part of this wonderful movement and will contribute to the further development of the movement.”