Social Science blog

06 September 2012

It’s a competition!

Perceptions about disability sport are bound to change in the wake of the Paralympics of 2012, and I say this with confidence because I’ve already observed how my own ideas about it have been transformed. It happened almost imperceptibly, but it definitely happened! One moment I was watching the Paralympics with an awareness that this was different to the Olympic Games, and the next minute (after having jumped to my feet and started roaring) my only experience was that this was a sporting competition and that I wanted my guy to win. Breakthrough! In the final analysis, in the heat of the moment, the Paralympics is a competition, just like any other.

If this sounds deliberately disingenuous, it really isn’t, because this breakthrough represented a real change in perception that was startling to me in retrospect, even though it was purely instinctive and natural. It certainly made me think about the mental barriers that we almost unconsciously erect around things and how they inevitably colour the way we behave.

The press seems to have undergone this metamorphosis too, putting emphasis on the winning of medals and GB’s standing in the tables rather then the more – shall we say - ‘emotional’ side of the Paralympics: the triumph over adversity aspect. The subtext is “we were all reluctant to let the Olympics go; thank heaven for the Paralympics, it’s just as good”. Different people; same competition essentially.

With these and similar ideas in mind, some people are now calling for the Olympic & Paralympic Games to be amalgamated, so that able and non-able bodied athletes can compete together – not against each other, but with the two sets of events taking place within the same time frame, in one big Games, which would embrace every different type of human form and endeavour.

Would the logistics be impossible to cope with? A few problems spring to mind: the Olympic venues had to be changed in some respects to adjust to the physical requirements of the Paralympians; the latter also required a more flexible timetable (for similar reasons). But are these insuperable issues? The positive side of the equation? The chance of real integration between these elite athletes, and a learning experience for all concerned.

Lots of Library colleagues have been sampling the Paralympic events, and have come back with similar ideas. Why separate it out? The volunteers are just as welcoming; the venues just as exciting; the sporting events ditto. Pictures also continue to flood in, revealing spectators' continuing sense of wonder. here are a couple:



© Bettis





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