David Weir should have been knighted - ex-sports minister
Labour’s Gerry Sutcliffe weighs into debate over 'too few' Paralympians on the New Year Honours list
PARALYMPIAN David Weir, who complained that the honours system has failed to recognise the achievements of disabled athletes, should have been given a knighthood rather than a CBE in the New Year Honours announced on Saturday, according to former sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe.
The Labour MP weighed into the debate over the honours list, claiming that the committee had made a "big mistake" by failing to award top honours to Paralympic athletes.
The row blew up over the weekend when it was revealed that a total of 38 Olympians had been recognised in the honours list after Team GB won 65 medals at the London Games. There were knighthoods for Ben Ainslie and Bradley Wiggins and CBEs for Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and Victoria Pendleton
But only 29 Paralympic athletes were honoured even though the team won 120 medals. There was one damehood (the equivalent of a knighthood, for Sarah Storey) and one CBE (for David Weir).
Weir, who won four golds at London 2012 and now has a total of ten Olympic medals including six golds, told the Daily Telegraph that the awards system was "weird".
"Kelly Holmes was made a Dame when she won two gold medals, but it seems [Paralympians] have to get into double figures to get it," he said.
Disabled dressage rider Lee Pearson, who already has an OBE, told the Independent on Sunday he was "disappointed" not to get a knighthood after winning his tenth gold at the Paralympics this summer. "It's the discrepancy that pisses me off," he said.
Now the row has taken on a political dimension with the comments from Sutcliffe. He told Radio 4: "There was an opportunity to be consistent and if you look at [Weir's] record over several Olympics I think the least he should have got is a knighthood.
"The whole purpose of the Games was to inspire a generation – and how better to inspire a generation than to give somebody a knighthood?"
Earlier, gold medal-winning Paralympic sprinter Jonnie Peacock asked on Twitter "how much more" Weir had to do to get a knighthood.
However, the Telegraph noted that there has been no criticism of the honours from the British Paralympic Association and reported that Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson had described the honours as "a big step forward" for disabled athletes.
The Guardian, though, took a different tack and quoted the BPA as saying that while the honours list was "balanced" there was still an "element of 'catch up' to happen". ·