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PEOPLE have voiced their disappointment at the lack of coverage and spectator facilities for the Paralympic Sailing events.

People lined the viewing areas on Thursday for the last day of sailing, which was cancelled due to lack of wind.

Portland ’s Helena Lucas claimed gold in the 2.4mR keelboat, while her ParalympicsGB teammates Niki Birrell and Alex Rickham took bronze in the SKUD-18 class.

But people have said they were disappointed with the lack of spectator facilities compared to the Olympics and that Paralympic broadcaster Channel 4 hadn’t shown any live coverage.

The channel did, however, do highlights packages from the last couple of days of sailing.

During the Olympic Games there had been the Nothe ticketed site with 4,6000 people a day enjoying the live coverage and two giant TV screens on the beach live site, which had a capacity for 15,000.

Channel 4 said that it was ‘not really fair’ to compare like for like with the Olympics as host broadcaster OBS had not done live coverage of the Paralympic sailing.

Commodore of the Royal Dorset Yacht Club Graham Castell said he felt that the sailing had been ‘ignored’.

He added he would have liked to see the beach live site maintained and possibly the Paralympics run directly after the Olympics.

He said: “The Olympic sailing was fantastic, well covered by the media and well supported by the ticketed area at the Nothe.

“What happened to the Paralympics?”

Paralympic Flame Ambassador Ian White, who has been disabled since suffering with polio when he was nine months old, said he believed Weymouth and Portland Borough Council had done ‘all they could’ for the Paralympics and the blame lay with the London Organising Committee (LOCOG) and the government who ‘should be very embarrassed’.

He said: “LOCOG took over Weymouth, they did the Olympics. I personally reckon the government still class disabled people as second-class citizens.”

He added: “I think it’s disgusting they took away the screens.”

Weymouth and Portland Borough Council spokesman for social inclusion, Kate Wheller, said the lack of coverage of the sailing had been disappointing.

She said: “We have spoken to Channel 4 about it. Obviously they don’t have the sort of extra facilities that the BBC had. It’s been disappointing.”

Councillor Wheller said that there had been very little coverage of anything happening outside of London.

She added: “It’s a huge shame. The competitors live on Portland, they are local and we want to give them as much support as possible.”

Councillor Wheller said that the borough council had been taking the families of the sailors out on MV Freedom to watch the Games, which they had really appreciated.

She added that the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) had made the decision to remove the screens from Weymouth beach.

She said: “The borough council would have loved to maintain those facilities but we couldn’t do it without the support of LOCOG.”

But Councillor Wheller said she was pleased that the borough council had managed to secure the sports arena on the beach for the Paralympics, which had not been in the original brief.

Weymouth and Portland Mayor Margaret Leicester said: “It’s not been promoted as much as the Olympics.”

She said she was disappointed the Olympic rings sculpture had been taken from Weymouth train station.

The Mayor added that she felt that LOCOG had ‘dictated’ the way the Games had been run in Weymouth and the facilities.

Borough council spokesman for tourism Ian Bruce said the TV coverage had been ‘appalling’.

‘Not fair’ to compare channels

A spokesman for Channel 4 said they had provided highlights from Weymouth and Portland especially during the medal day, but said that their host broadcaster OBS did not provide live coverage of the events.

He said it was not ‘really fair to compare like for like’ against the BBC’s Olympic coverage as the BBC would have had live coverage from OBS whereas OBS did not cover all paralympic sports.

He said: “The host broadcasters OBS did not provide live coverage of the Paralympic sailing events, although Channel 4 did have cameras at Weymouth and broadcast reports and highlights throughout our coverage.”

Harbour best for sailing

BRITISH Sailing Team manager Stephen Park said that the racing and venue set-up for the Paralympic athletes competing on Portland Harbour had been second to none.

But he admitted that the spectator experience had been disappointing after the success of the first-ever ticketed Olympic sailing venue in Weymouth, which attracted thousands of cheering crowds, although the close-to-the-shore races involved shifty winds.

Mr Park, who is known as Sparky by the team, said: “The one side that wasn’t as good as far as the Olympics is concerned, has been the spectator experience we had with the Nothe and perhaps some of the television coverage.

“It’s the same with some of the other sports, understandably it’s a case of the costs involved.

“I’d far rather they were racing here in Portland Harbour than the Nothe from a sailing perspective.”

But Mr Park added that it was great that there was such an appetite for sailing coverage and that it had been great to see the full stadiums.

He said: “It’s great people are saying there should have been more coverage for us to watch, that’s great.

“People are desperately keen to get more of the sport, which is a good thing.”