On Thursday Morning (Australian time) the London Paralympics will kick off amid much excitement and expectation from around the world. Over the last few weeks I’ve fielded the question of if I believe the Paralympics should be a stand alone event or included with the Olympics, and for me it isn’t something that I need to give much thought.
Why should we be forced to share the spotlight with able-bodied athletes ? There is a lot of momentum behind the thought that “disabled people already go through so much, so they deserve to get proper recognition”.
That in itself is something that I couldn’t disagree more with.
My having Cerebral Palsy doesn’t mean I’ve been through a lot, it simply means that I have to deal with day-to-day activities in a modified fashion.
It doesn’t make me special, a role model, an inspiration or anything like that.
Every disabled person would tell you the same if you gave them the chance.
Back to the topic at hand.
We train just as hard, we give up just as much, we have the same dreams of hearing the national anthem with the flag being raised.
Just like our able-bodied counterparts we deserve our moment in the sun, and if the two Games were combined this will be lost.
I’m under no illusion this directly contradicts what I mentioned above in suggesting that we shouldn’t be looked at any differently, yet it is a difference which is noticeable when side by side with able-bodied athletes.
If you buy swimming tickets would you be paying to see Jessica Long or Michael Phelps ? Do you know who Jessica Long is ? If not google her and look at the success she’s had in and out of the pool.
The joint revenue would be great for the IPC and the crowds would be at capacity, which is something that we may see over the next two weeks, with Paralympics tickets continuing to sell fast.
There is the argument that a joint Games would lead to greater media exposure, wrong again.
Would that be the same exposure that sees networks take commercial breaks during the disabled events at the Australian Swimming Championships ?
However you want to sugar coat that you can’t deny that the majority of networks treat disabled athletes as second class.
Imagine the outrage if they chose to ignore the Olympics in favour of showing over 16 hours of Paralympic action a day.
In the end it doesn’t matter because we aren’t on the same level currently and the only way that will change is by continuing showing why Paralympians are equal athletes, despite not being seen as equal humans.