Australian Paul Bird Among Four Awarded Paralympic Order by IPC

Aug 24, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; The Paralympic flag and the national flag of Japan flying during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Mandatory Credit: Bob Martin/OIS Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports
Photo Courtesy: Bob Martin/OIS Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Australian Paul Bird Among Four Awarded Paralympic Order by IPC

Australian paralympic swimmer Paul Bird is among four new recipients of the Paralympic Order, as bestowed by the International Paralympic Committee on Friday.

Bird competed at the 1980 and 1984 Paralympics. He’s also been an athletics administrator in Australia for the last 40 years.

Bird was honored along with the Netherlands’ Rita von Driel, Great Britain’s Greg Nugent and Japan’s Yasushi Yamawaki, who was the vice president of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games organizing committee.

The Paralympic Order is the highest honor the IPC bestows. It goes to, “someone who has exemplified the Paralympic ideals through their actions, made remarkable strides in Paralympic sport or rendered outstanding services the Paralympic cause.”

Bird 67, competed in both swimming and athletics at the 1980 and 1984 Paralympics. He won relay golds in the pool at the 1980 Arnhem and 1984 New York Games, then added silver in the men’s 100 backstroke in 1984. A youth rugby player, his leg was amputated at age 18 after a motorcycle accident.

“I am extremely honoured to be considered a worthy recipient of this prestigious award from the International Paralympic Committee,” Bird said in a press release. “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.”

After his days as an athlete, the native of Murwillumbah, New South Wales, served as the head or deputy Chef de Mission for the Australian delegation to five Paralympics. He was a member of Paralympics Australia’s board from 1993-2014, and he has served for the last 15 years as the president of the Oceania Paralympic Committee. In that role, he has sought to expand athletic opportunities for Paralympians not just in Australia but throughout the region, working with other national paralympic committee presidents. He was awarded the Order of Australian (OAM) in 2002.

“With the Paralympic Order this year we pay homage to four people who the Paralympic Movement is indebted to,” IPC president Andrew Parsons said. “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.”

Van Driel comes from the Dutch world of Para snow sports. She served as a coach and guide for two athletes at the 1992 Games, and has served as the Secretary General for NPC Netherlands and an at-large member of the IPC governing board.

Nugent was the brand, marketing and culture director of the London 2012 Paralympics. He continued working for the British Paralympic Association after the Games, and he produced and helped secure funding for the Emmy Award winning Netflix documentary Rising Phoenix, about the Paralympics.

Yamawaki was is a two-term member of the IPC governing board who played a huge role in the getting the 2020 Games completed. He has also served as the president of the Japanese Paralympic Committee and chairman of the Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center.