This is a guest post by Sarah
The Paralympic Games 2008 ended today. This is easily the most prestigious event in amateur DisAbility sport, but you wouldnâ€™t know it unless you think it. Mainstream media* coverage and publicity were both extremely limited, and the time difference between China and the UK just isnâ€™t a good enough excuse for me.
The Games started on the 6th of September this year. Hopes were high that the event would lead China to improve disabled access, as well as mainstream attitudes to disability. As usual, however, questions were raised about whether this positive development would actually last after the Games were over. Itâ€™s too early to answer this question yet, but I, for one, sincerely hope that this will last.
Back in Britain, however, I didnâ€™t even know the starting date of the Games until August 26th- just after the end of the mainstream Olympic Games. As I said on my blog at the time, the whole world knew the starting date of the Olympics for months in advance. I blame this unfair contrast on the lack of coverage and publicity that was given to the Paralympics by the mainstream media. Personally, I think they were wrong to wait so long before advertising the starting date of the Paralympics. DisAbility Sport always takes more effort and determination than mainstream sport ever will, so, in my opinion, the Paralympians deserved equal, if not more, publicity.
No one ever doubted that the Olympians planned, anticipated and trained for their Games for the last four years. Although it wasnâ€™t constant, I hope youâ€™ll agree that their preparation received a lot of coverage in the mainstream media. Yet, in all that time, no mainstream newspaper or TV channel ever covered the Paralympic preparations.
It is a fact known to anyone who cares that the Olympics and the Paralympics take place in the same year, in the same city. Since no one told me when the Paralympics were starting, I wrongly assumed that both events were taking place at the same time, and wondered why there was no news of the Paralympics in the mainstream media. I would just like to say that, personally, I canâ€™t see any really good reason why this could not have happened. It would have meant true inclusion for the truly Disabled Paralympians, as well as a feeling of belonging, being truly welcomed and being truly wanted for DisAbled communities worldwide. I would just like to say that this is something that I, personally, would like the organizers of London 2012 to seriously consider doing, unless there is any really good reason why it would be completely impossible.
Now, let me just talk about how the Games were actually covered by the British mainstream media. Eleven days ago, I promised readers of my blog, Same Difference, regular coverage of Paralympic Team Great Britainâ€™s achievements. To my disappointment, this promise proved impossible to keep, as coverage of the achievements of these truly DisAbled men and women was relegated to the BBCâ€™s Interactive Sport service. Only the opening and closing ceremonies and the handover to London 2012 were televised live on the BBC. Otherwise, we got short highlights programmes, or, if we were really lucky, two seconds at the end of the Sports news on BBC News 24. Yet the Olympics were covered on all terrestrial TV channels for two full weeks!
The only place that I know of that made any real attempt to cover the Paralympics while they were in progress was the BBCâ€™s online DisAbility magazine and news section, Ouch. Thatâ€™s hardly surprising, though, is it? I would have been more than a little worried if they hadnâ€™t covered the Games. Although, since they only update their news stories three or four times a week, they didnâ€™t do nearly as much as I was hoping for, either.
This time around, the mainstream media, unfortunately, did not give the Paralympians the publicity or equal coverage that the special needs world knows they deserve. However, there is one thing that anyone who is anyone in the special needs world will never doubt. The Paralympians are true stars. They are inspirations to everyone with any DisAbility. In fact, since just thinking about their great achievements makes me tired, I think itâ€™s safe to say that they put me to shame! And I call myself DisAbledâ€¦
(*For this post only, â€˜Mainstream Mediaâ€™ refers to media sources that do not have a direct interest in DisAbility issues. )
This is a guest post. Sarah blogs here.
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