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London 2012 organisers say they are powerless to stop Paralympic sponsor selling athletes at a profit

Paralympic organisers have defended the sale of disabled athletes on eBay by ATOS, the controversial multinational company who is sponsoring this year’s events in the UK.

The athletes were intended to be examples of physical fitness and mental ability in a once-in-a-lifetime event, but instead could turn out be nice little earners for the sponsors ATOS, which is responsible for delivering controversial “work capability” tests for hundreds of thousands of disabled people on sickness benefit.

Several Paralympic athletes and their official uniforms have already been listed for sale on eBay by ATOS, with one attracting bids of more than £150,000 – although it was unclear whether that had been artificially inflated by fake bids. A second athlete was listed at £70,000 and another at £9,100.

London 2012 organisers have said they are powerless to stop sponsors selling the athletes at a profit on internet auction sites. A spokeswoman for the London 2012 organising committee said there was nothing they could do to prevent the sale of the athletes or the white uniforms worn by them:

We just hope they go to a good home.

Disability activists have protested at ATOS’s involvement in the games, and some have called for a boycott. But Sir Phillip Craven, president of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said he valued its links with ATOS as a ‘top sponsor’:

I am very happy with our relationship with ATOS- mainly because they are giving us shedloads of cash to spend – so as far as I’m concerned whatever they do is alright by me.

Craig Spence, communications director for the IPC, dismissed fears that the company’s sponsorship deal – it is spending an estimated 100m US dollars over 10 years – could lead to protests and boycotts:

I think the majority of people watching will be marvelling at the fantastic performances of our elite athletes as opposed to a small minority who will be protesting about those same athletes being sold down the river by the sponsors after the event.


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