The International Paralympic Committee has appointed World ParaVolley Sport Director Denis Le Breuilly as the Technical Delegate for Sitting Volleyball at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, a role to which he was also appointed for the London Games.
Among a total of over forty elements to be organised and ‘signed off’, Denis’s duties and responsibilities will cover not only the competition format and schedules, the venue and equipment, but also elements such as VIPs, catering, transport, match entertainment and presentation, TV and press arrangements, the appointment of Games Officials, accreditation, medical arrangements, and security and contingency plans. Rio will be Denis’s third Paralympics. At the Beijing Games he participated as Assistant Referee Delegate .
Born on the Island of Jersey in the Channel Islands, ‘Mr Denis’, as he is known by many, became involved with the sport of volleyball at De La Salle College and founded the Jersey Volleyball Association and the Jersey Open Tournament. He refereed ‘able bodied’ Volleyball in the top division of the English National League for twenty five years, flying from the island to matches largely at his own expense. He still holds the unique distinction of having refereed a National Cup Final before he refereed a National League match!
Whilst refereeing the English Volleyball Association’s Men’s National Cup Final at Crystal Palace in London in 1991, he was introduced to Sitting Volleyball by Gordon Neale OBE who organised a ‘come and try it’ session for referees at the event. The following year Denis qualified as an International Referee with the International Sports Organisation for the Disabled , which later handed over the reins to the ‘World Organisation Volleyball for Disabled’ (WOVD). In his final year as an International Referee, with retirement forced by reaching the age limit in 2001, he refereed the Volleyball England Men’s National Cup Final (able bodied), the European Women’s Sitting Volleyball Final in Hungary, and the WOVD Men’s Standing World Cup Final in Slovakia. After retirement as an International Referee, and retirement from De La Salle College, where he was a pupil and taught, Le Breuilly increased his administrative duties and in 2010 was appointed as World ParaVolley Sport Director. ParaVolley is the new branding for the International Federation, among other reasons being to help eliminate the word ‘disabled’ which is not acceptable in many societies and does not reflect the high standards of athletic excellence achieved by our athletes.
Part of Le Breuilly’s voluntary role as World ParaVolley Sport Director, and as Technical Delegate for the next Paralympics, entails overseeing the qualifying events, which commence with the World Championships in Poland next June. He is currently engaged in helping ParaVolley Africa to organise the first official Women’s Championship on the continent and is hopeful that, after a further qualification event in 2015, a credible African Women’s team will qualify for the Paralympics for the first time. Competition for the eight Men’s and eight Women’s team slots will undoubtedly be fierce. It should be noted that for the Rio Games all teams will be twelve players and not eleven as in London.
The London Paralympic Games were shown in more than 115 countries and territories and attracted their biggest international audience ever, being watched by a cumulative audience (outside the host country) of 3.4 billion. This was a growth of 37% over Beijing and the figure is expected to grow for Rio, with new TV companies coming on board. As was the case for London, the TD not only has to ensure the highest quality of presentation within the venue, but also that whatever is filmed promotes the sport and provides a legacy. Millions will be watching every televised match! In terms of social media, for London, there were 82.1 million views of the IPC’s facebook page and World ParaVolley alone reached 5 million through social media. As Denis said, ‘that’s five million who now know we do not play in wheelchairs’. Twitter said that the London Paralympic Games were the biggest trending sporting event of 2012, surpassing the Olympics! Denis would like to see everyone becoming involved in promoting the sport in the lead up to Rio. It is important that ParaVolley capitalises on every opportunity to promote ParaVolley and the achievements of its players and officials.
With Brazil being a strong volleyball country and with both their Men’s and Women’s teams finishing fifth in London, we can expect a really competitive atmosphere with plenty of spectator involvement as both teams try to medal! The message to the Rio organisers from the TD is to build on all the excellent administrative work done for and by LOCOG and then to add the special Rio atmosphere! Denis Le Breuilly is looking forward to working closely with the Rio 2016 organisers to create a special event. He wishes to thank the World ParaVolley Board for having the confidence to nominate him for the role, all who have supported him throughout his career, and his wife Pauline and family without whose support nothing would have been possible.