This year’s 2012 Summer Olympic Games made me realise something, something that really annoys me. As much as I look forward to and love the Summer Olympics that occur every 4 years, I think it’s really unfair that when these conclude everyone seems to forget about the Paralympics that start a short time after. This year, organisers estimated that about 8 million tickets would be available for the Olympic Games and 2.5 million tickets for the Paralympics. The Paralympics are more integrated with the whole Olympic year in London and the tickets are almost sold out. Another idea could be to run the Paralympics before the able-bodied Olympics as I’m sure this would help increase attention.
I’m sure if some of us ‘normal’ people devoted most of our lives to a sport, training 2-3 times a day, we could achieve some of the same results as the Olympians (well we would like to think we could). However, most people are lazy and wouldn’t even dream of committing this much time to one thing, so good on the Olympians for achieving what they do as they are the ones with this level of commitment.
However, I don’t think a lot of us would be able to overcome the challenges of a life-changing injury and get into the Paralympics. In my opinion, the Paralympics are more of an eye-opening, inspiring event. They can teach people more about life, and give you an insight into what some people are able to overcome and achieve after an incident that causes them to become disabled, or an accident of birth. They also give other disabled people hope that life still goes on after whatever injury they might sustain, and not to give up on themselves. They are more about the individual and less about sponsorship and advertising – I know sponsors help athletes to support themselves and compete, but I swear it seems like there are more sponsors then athletes in some sports.
What can be done to change public attitudes towards disabled athletes? These people should be given as much attention as the more able-bodied athletes, as they have worked just as hard as they do – well harder in most cases, as it would take a lot of physical and mental strength to overcome the limitations of their injuries. More attention could be drawn to the Paralympics by an increase in funding and a more visible public profile. The short bio pieces about individual paralympians that have run on ABC TV in the lead-up to these games have done this – we heard about their backgrounds, how they became disabled, how they coped and how they got into their sports. There were some really inspirational stories and they personalized some of a group of athletes who are often simply lumped together as ‘the disabled’. And maybe this is a way to raise their profile and get some sponsorship to help them financially in their sports and in their lives. That might be just a bit more fair.