Celebrating The Unsung Heroes of Sport


by Rumbold
18th September, 2008 at 4:47 pm    

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 wouldn’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 isn’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. It’s too early to answer this question yet, but I, for one, sincerely hope that this will last.

Back in Britain, however, I didn’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 wasn’t constant, I hope you’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 can’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 Britain’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 BBC’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 BBC’s online DisAbility magazine and news section, Ouch. That’s hardly surprising, though, is it? I would have been more than a little worried if they hadn’t covered the Games. Although, since they only update their news stories three or four times a week, they didn’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 it’s safe to say that they put me to shame! And I call myself DisAbled…

(*For this post only, ‘Mainstream Media’ 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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  1. Paralympics » Terrorist op de Paralympics

    [...] Celebrating The Unsung Heroes of SportI 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. … [...]




  1. Rumbold — on 18th September, 2008 at 5:33 pm  

    Good piece Sarah. I agree with a lot of what you say.

    “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.”

    Perhaps there is not enough room in the stadiums.

  2. shariq — on 18th September, 2008 at 7:34 pm  

    is there a reason why the paralympic games aren’t held before the able bodied ones? it would still be viewed as a build up, but i think people would pay more attention than they do now.

  3. Rumbold — on 18th September, 2008 at 8:13 pm  

    Seems like a good idea Sharique, but then the paralympics should have had lots of coverage this year because of all the success in the Olympics, as well as the massive medal haul of British Paralympicans. I think that there are deeper issues then when it is scheduled.

  4. Amrit — on 18th September, 2008 at 8:28 pm  

    Good on you Sarah, for writing about this. I myself wondered why there were a few mentions of some of the Paralympic hopefuls on BBC News etc., and then almost no interest.

  5. sarah — on 18th September, 2008 at 9:40 pm  

    Thanks guys!

    Great idea Shariq, and a very good point. We wish!

  6. Leon — on 18th September, 2008 at 10:10 pm  

    It says a great deal about the treatment of these Olympics given how well Britain did in the medals table. If the main Olympics had Britain coming second we’d never hear the end of it (I mean we still bang on about winning the bloody world cup 42 years ago!) and for this….?

  7. sarah — on 18th September, 2008 at 11:11 pm  

    Another very good point, Leon.

    Rumbold- maybe they should think about building bigger stadiums then…

  8. Refresh — on 19th September, 2008 at 1:06 am  

    a timely post – Beijing has to be congratulated for making the event so significant.

    Come on Sarah (and Sharique) why so timid?

    Lets hope that the mainstream multi-billion dollar sportsworld will eat itself and the true Olympian spirit that remains at the heart of Paralympics will make it the predominant event.

    Lets celebrate achievements of these sportpeople and the families, communities and societies that encouraged them in their chosen sport. And lets also hope they will be the catalyst for many others around the world where disability is often considered less than a meaningful existence.

    But lets also fear that as they achieve greater media coverage they too become stars as opposed to role models.

    Leon, an aside. I’ve long objected to and been put off by the nationalism that seems to go with the Olympics. The medal tally is the obvious measure – but not it seems the amount of cash invested for that return.

  9. Riz — on 19th September, 2008 at 1:10 am  

    I think there is little benefit in simply increasing coverage of the Paralympics action. However, if more was done to generate demand (with inspiring documentaries, etc), then maybe the newspapers and wider media would provide the coverage.

    PS – I could barely muster enough interest to watch the normal Olympics, let alone the Paralympics. I’m not going to pretend.

  10. Sunny — on 19th September, 2008 at 4:41 am  

    Agree with Riz above…

  11. Letters From A Tory — on 19th September, 2008 at 9:48 am  

    Eh? What do you mean they didn’t get the “publicity or equal coverage that the special needs world knows they deserve”? Ever heard of supply and demand? If people were interested in the Paralympics, the BBC would have moved it up their agenda – but, for whatever reason, people just don’t show a huge amount of interest.

    I thought the BBC Sport website’s section on the Paralympics was more than sufficient and the big headlines made it to the front page of the BBC website in any case.

    http://lettersfromatory.wordpress.com

  12. The Common Humanist — on 19th September, 2008 at 10:01 am  

    I think this is tremendous change for the chinese. It is not that long ago the the Chinese Govt quietly got rid of the more severely disabled people in China – from an unmarked grave to a tremendous paraolympics in 30 years. Thats not too shabby.

  13. 种子罐 — on 6th October, 2008 at 8:56 am  

    I think there is little benefit in simply increasing coverage of the Paralympics action. However, if more was done to generate demand (with inspiring documentaries, etc), then maybe the newspapers and wider media would provide the coverage.
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