By Cathy Wood

Spend any time at the home of the London Organising Committee and you quickly learn this is a world governed by acronyms.

So there's LOCOG (the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games) and OCOGs (Organising Committees of the Olympic Games), the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and  IPC (International Paralympic Committee), IBC (International Broadcast Centre),MPC (Main Press Centre) and ABC.  Well maybe not ABC, an American broadcasting company, but you get my point.

So it comes as something of a relief to discover Chris Holmes, Director of Paralympic Integration, has a title not easily shortened (then again DOPI could catch on) and a remit that's pretty easy to understand.

Holmes must ensure every aspect of Games-planning, from venue access to the food being dished up at the Village, integrates the needs of Paralympians as much as it does Olympians.

And that hasn't been done before.

"We are driven to deliver the Paralympic Games as much as the Olympic Games," he says. "It's all of us; the stakeholders, the city, the sponsors. Everyone has to play their part and my job is to pull everyone together to make it the greatest Paralympics ever."

Holmes, 38, has impeccable credentials; he swam for Britain at four Paralympics Games, graduated from Cambridge University with a degree in Politics and was immersed in commercial law when the London 2012 job came calling less than a year ago.

Even so Holmes is sailing in unchartered waters.

If being hosts, in the country where the Paralympic Movement was born in 1948, is to be deemed a success Holmes must ensure every stadia, for all 20 Paralympic sports on the programme in 2012, is packed full of supporters who are knowledgeable, enthusiastic and excited about watching world class disability sport.

And that is no easy task.

Ask a passing member of the public to name a Paralympic athlete and most will almost certainly reply, Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson who retired from competition in 2007.  By 2012 five years will have passed since her last competitive appearance.

"LOCOG have done more for integration than any other Organising Committee," she says. "But the profile of the Games, and of athletes, has to start now. We have to get the public to care about the athletes."

If Holmes (pictured above with Ellie Simmonds) is daunted by the challenge, he's not showing it.

But then here's a man who knows the biggest obstacles can lead to the greatest rewards.

Born and brought up in Kidderminster in Worcestershire he, like many 14-year-old boys, enjoyed taking part in a number of sports including swimming.

Unlike most 14-year-olds though, Holmes went to bed one night and woke, the following morning, to find himself almost totally blind.

What little tunnel vision he was left with was later to disappear completely. The loss, which came as a bolt out of the blue, occurred because when Holmes was born there were folds in his retinas which didn't stretch as he grew up. Instead they tore. Blindness ensued.

For many adjusting to an unsighted world would have been demanding enough.  Holmes saw, or rather didn't see, it differently.

He already knew he wanted to get good enough A-Level grades to get into Cambridge and represent his country at swimming.

Going blind didn't alter anything.

"It changed the practicalities but the fundamental approach remained the same," he says.

Two years after the light, literally, went out of his life Holmes, then 16, was on a plane to Seoul, South Korea for the 1988 Paralympics, the first of four Games he would compete in.

By the time he left, with a bronze and two silver medals stuffed into his kit bag, his life had changed forever. In sport, as in his role now, he wanted to push the boundaries further than they had ever been taken before.

So he joined the Olympic swimmers at City of Birmingham Swimming Club clocking up 80,000 metres in training, or 50 miles, in the pool a week. That's pretty much the equivalent of swimming from London to Bristol every two weeks.

"I wanted to be as good as I could," he says.

"How far can I push this?" he asked himself and, "Where can I take the sport to?"

Where he took it to, four years later in Barcelona in 1992, was six gold medals in a single Paralympics a feat never before, or since, equalled by a British competitor.

Holmes went on to compete at Athens and Sydney before calling it a day with a total haul of nine golds, five silver and one bronze medal most of which, he says, are "tucked up" at his parents' home.

If swimming at the highest level required Holmes to leave no stone unturned in his quest for gold, integrating planning and organisation of the Paralympics is no different.

While events such as the BT Paralympic World Cup in Manchester have done much to raise awareness of elite level disability sport, much still needs to be done if the public are to understand the often complex rules of the Paralympic classification system and appreciate the level of skill being played out before them.

Holmes is in no doubt these are obstacles which will be overcome ensuring, by 2012, the public are ready to engage and enjoy the Paralympics in a way never before experienced in the UK.

In part, he believes, that's because in January of this year Channel 4 signed a unprecedented deal to be the Paralympic Broadcaster.

Under the agreement, the result of a three month long competitive tendering process, 150 hours of coverage will be aired at Games-time in addition to two 10-part documentaries, to be shown at peak time in 2010 and 2011. These will follow athlete stories, like Simmonds and David Weir (pictured), as they journey to London.

"Channel 4 are going to be a key partner in being able to allow us to deliver on understanding," Holmes says.

The deal was one of the highlights of Holmes's first year in the job.

"'It was," he says, "a fantastic deal and really allows us a tremendous opportunity to do something amazing ensuring people get immersed in Paralympic sport and fall in love with it."

Another high point was the  retail chain, Sainsbury's was to be a Paralympic Tier One partner which means merchandise and information on the Paralympics will be promoted in more than 850 stores nationwide.

If someone had told Holmes in Seoul in 1988 that one day one of the country's most recognisable supermarket chains would sign the largest sponsorship ever of a Paralympic Games it's unlikely he, or anyone else for that matter, would have believed it.

Opportunities aside the success of the Paralympic Games will also be judged on how attitudes to disability change, if at all.

Holmes is certain there will be no shortage of takers for the two million tickets available for the Paralympics and there will be no need to give any of them away.

"We intend to sell every ticket to demonstrate this is something that's worth being part of," he says.

So far the public seem to agree. 

Of the one million sign ups since the ticket initiative was launched, in March this year, 40 per cent say they want to attend the Paralympics. 

This, says Holmes, is a "robust number"  because those filling out the forms had to specify the individual sports they wanted to watch rather than simply saying "Yes" or "No" to being interested in the Paralympics.

But, if the legacy of hosting the second biggest multi-sport event in the world is to mean more than just financial revenue, ticket take up needs to translate into greater compassion for the disabled as well as improved awareness and understanding.

Among the initiatives under way is one of integrated viewing at stadia. Often disabled spectators are placed in segregated "pens" at sporting events away from able-bodied family and friends.

But in London disabled spectators will be seated alongside the able bodied.

"It's not just about access, which is important, it's about inclusivity," he says.

It's these advances, along with changes in perception, tolerance and community,  which matter as much to Holmes as providing an exceptional athlete experience.

"We want to engage people across the entire country," he says. "To ensure disabled people have similar opportunities to their able-bodied contemporaries, in short, to ensure these are everyone's Paralympics. If this was one of the outcomes of hosting the Games it would be pretty fantastic."

And you don't need any acronyms to understand, or hope for, that.

Cathy Wood was editor of the Daily Mail Ski Magazine before moving to become ski correspondent on the Daily Mail. She later became travel editor before going freelance. She represented Great Britain at elite level triathlon and writes on travel, skiing and sport.