The original 1996 Games monument in Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park had no commemoration of the Paralympics. Now, thanks to the USDAF, the '96 Paralympic legacy is alive and well.
A Paralympic Legacy
Reprinted from SNS September 2000When the last burst of fireworks faded away at the 1996 Paralympic Closing Ceremonies on August 25, many hopes were riding on the commitment stated in the Atlanta Paralympic Organizing Committee (APOC) Mission Statement—"Leave a legacy for the Paralympic Movement."
The Atlanta Games set new standards and scored many firsts for the Paralympics. The event broke new ground in funding and television and media coverage. For the first time tickets were sold, and new records were established in numbers of participating athletes and their performances.
The APOC board of directors established the U.S. Disabled Athletes Fund, Inc. (USDAF), in 1993, three years before the 1996 Paralympic Games, to serve as the vehicle to carry out the '96 Games' legacy. After the event was over and APOC had satisfied all its financial obligations—including providing more than $1.25 million to the U. S. Disabled Sports Team and the International Paralympic Committee—the remaining surplus, generated largely through ticket sales, concessions, and merchandise during the Games, provided a nucleus of funding for the USDAF.
Growing out of APOC CEO and USDAF President Andy Fleming's experience in disability sports at community, national, and international levels, USDAF's vision was to develop a broad-based program that would eventually increase opportunities for American athletes at all levels. Now, four short years after the 1996 Paralympics, USDAF is breaking new ground on the community and collegiate levels and in support of current and aspiring Paralympic athletes. The organization's plans include geographic and programmatic expansion from the current operational focus in Georgia.
USDAF is not involved in disability sports' governance or technical issues since these areas are managed by the established disabled sports organizations (DSOs).
"Our role is to complement the efforts of the DSOs," says Fleming. "We work to introduce people to sports—to put more athletes into the competitive pipeline, to train more community-level coaches, to provide competitions, and to help improve the skills and competitiveness of nationally ranked athletes."