Royal Mail sparked controversy this week when it emerged that it was not repeating its pledge to produce a new stamp every time a British athlete won an Olympic gold medal.
Instead, Royal Mail agreed with the British Paralympic Association to feature all gold medal-winning British Paralympians across six “group” stamps at the end of the games.
It blamed “logistical” problems, claiming far more gold medals were expected from Britain’s Paralympians than its Olympians, over a shorter time period, with as many as 50 or so gold medals over 11 days.
It insisted that it will paint an extra post-box gold in the home town of every British Paralympic gold medallist – just as it has done with the Olympics – and would set up a £200,000 prize fund to be split between all gold medal-winners, which is believed to be a similar amount to its Olympic fund.
Two of Britain’s ParalympicsGB team have already called on Royal Mail to think again.
Rower Naomi Riches said she believed Royal Mail “should make every effort” to produce individual stamps.
She told Disability News Service: “I understand that it might be a logistical nightmare due to the length of the Paralympic Games and number of potential gold medals, however it surely would be worth it.”
She said individual stamps would benefit Royal Mail, raise the profile of Paralympic sport, and provide another step towards giving Paralympic athletes “as much credit for their achievements as Olympic athletes”.
She suggested that Royal Mail could issue some individual stamps after the games, if it was too difficult to produce them all within the 11 days.
She said: “I am sure athletes would rather wait a little longer for such a great and unique thing. I know I would.”
Powerlifter Ali Jawad, another strong medal hope, also spoke out, this time on Twitter, and said: “I think if a British Paralympic athlete wins gold they DESERVE an individual stamp.”
He later added: “Our British Gold Paralympic medallists deserve it too! It’s our home games too.”
Tim Cowen, Royal Mail’s director of consumer and business media relations, said: “The logistics are that we just cannot produce that many stamps.”
He said Royal Mail would normally produce one new stamp a month, which would be planned up to two years in advance, and added: “To suddenly be faced with potentially having to produce 50 stamps in [11 days], that is a step too far. We looked at it and we just cannot.”
Because Getty Images – the International Olympic Committee’s official photographic agency, which is producing pictures for the Olympic stamps – could not guarantee to take pictures at every gold medal-winning Paralympic moment, Royal Mail will organise its own photo shoots of every British gold medallist.
On being told of Riches’ suggestion that Royal Mail could issue the stamps over a longer period, Cowen said: “It is very interesting to hear her views and it is very useful to know what the athletes think,” but declined to comment further.
The British Paralympic Association said it agreed with Royal Mail that it was “logistically and practically impossible” to produce so many individual stamps, and that it was “very pleased with the final plans”, including the six group stamps, gold post-boxes and £200,000 prize fund.
But it declined to comment further, despite Riches’ suggestion.
Julie Newman, acting chair of the UK Disabled People’s Council, said individual stamps would provide recognition of the achievements of Britain’s Paralympians, both for the British public and internationally.
She said equality between the Paralympics and Olympics was important, but individual stamps could also help with the media portrayal of disabled people.
She said: “It would portray disabled people as achievers, sportspeople, elite athletes, people who have achieved a level of excellence within their chosen field or sector.
“It would have been a tremendous opportunity to balance out a lot of the negative media portrayal of disabled people, and it is an opportunity that has been lost.”