tom degun_07-12-11The London 2012 test events, officially known as the London Prepares series, have now been going on rather successfully since May this year but it was not until this weekend that the first stand-alone Paralympic test event got underway with the London International Goalball Tournament.

The two-day competition at the magnificent Handball Arena on the Olympic Park saw five women's teams in action as hosts Britain took on China, Canada, Sweden and the United States.

It was a superb few days in the spotlight for goalball – a sport not well known but a fascinating discipline nonetheless that sees two teams featuring three visually impaired players compete using a ball with bells inside it.

But perhaps more poignantly, the event provided us with our first true glimpse of what sport at the London 2012 Paralympics will look like.

Those fortunate enough to attend International Paralympic Day (IPD) on September 8 this year will most likely agree that the special event in Trafalgar Square gave us very much a flavour of what the Games will feel like across the capital.

After all, IPD saw big screens up, exhibition Paralympic events on show, come-and-try-out-the-sport-sessions and numerous appearances from high profile figures including Prime Minister David Cameron and the world's most recognisable Paralympian Oscar Pistorius of South Africa.

But it was in the Handball Arena that we actually got the chance to see what Paralympic sport itself will be like in its proper London 2012 setting.

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Although tickets were not on sale for the goalball, 4,000 were donated by London 2012 to local residents and schools to attend and they combine to create a fabulous atmosphere.

This might sound strange in a sport where the audience is required to stay silent - so that the players can hear the ball - but the silence itself actually manages to add huge tension and excitement to the play.

I can perhaps only equate it to a tennis match, where the crowd will stay deafly silent before erupting when the point is won.

The silence is nothing if not hugely nerve-jangling.

So if the goalball test event is anything to go by, we are maybe starting to get an idea of what to expect.

For starters, China will be a major force at London 2012 and probably go on to top the medal table just as they did in Beijing after their goalball women's team, the reigning Paralympic silver medallists, easily won the goalball test event with victory over Canada in what can only be seen as an ominous warning shot for everyone else.

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We can also expect the arenas to be fantastic, the spectators to be passionate and the competitors to be simply brilliant in terms of skill, ability and athleticism.

But most crucially, we can expect 'sport like never before'.

It is a phrase used constantly when referencing the London 2012 Paralympic Games and I asked Chris Holmes, the London 2012 director of Paralympic integration, what he wants those four symbolic words to mean to people.

"Sport like never before is a reference to what the real essence of what Paralympic sport is all about," said Holmes, who won nine Paralympic gold medals in swimming at four Paralympic Games, including six at Barcelona in 1992.

"A lot of people who attend London 2012 perhaps wouldn't have seen Paralympic sport before but what they will encounter is something truly incredible.

"They will see incredible athletes participating in incredible sport.

"The 2012 Paralympics will be a showcase of elite sport which highlights what can be achieved by people with an impairment and that is why we talk about sport like never before."

So while most of the attention will be on the likes of Pistorius, swimming star Ellie Simmonds and wheelchair racer Dave Weir, perhaps it might be a good idea to tune into sports such as goalball. You may just get the chance to see sport like never before.

Tom Degun is the Paralympics reporter for insideworldparasport