INCLUDE PARALYMPICS WITH THE OLYMPICS
The London 2012 Olympics was a perfect exercise in national narcissism, as was Beijing before that, and Rio still to come. Nations now use the Olympics as a launch pad for all their ambitions to proclaim they are the mighty nation who can afford to hold (with corporate help of course) these great games. Every opening ceremony has to be more extravagant, more expensive, and more dramatic than the previous city’s opening ceremony. If it isn’t, the games are a failure from the very start. Then we have the closing ceremony, equally flamboyant, equally expensive and the circus moves on to the next city.
But what happens two weeks later? We have the opening ceremony for what is called the Paralympics. I haven’t yet figured out the ‘Para’ bit means. Is it Para-plegic, Para-normal, Para-lysed or Paria-lypmics. Instead of the Olympics being inclusive of one and all sportspeople, it is exclusive for those who are physically challenged, the “Paras’. Here, the organizers are saying, you go off and have your games now that we have finished the real games. So there’s an opening and closing ceremony for the Paralympics thrown in to make it feel authentic.
I believe the Olympics should be inclusive of all athletes, Paras or not. It may stretch the Olympics for another week but at least those excluded because of their handicaps will feel part of the full Olympic spirit. They can participate in every event, following on the non-challenged athletes in the disciplines of their sports. After the 100 metre final with Bolt winning in record time, the audience could watch the Paras also complete the 100 metre finals in their record time. So too with swimming, basketball, track and field. They would be seen and acknowledged by a global audience. Right now, once the Olympics are over, the world’s television cameras vanish back to their nations, the sports pages around the world may give the Paralympics a little space but, apart from the host nations boasting of winning more gold medals, the paras are relegated to the background.
In future Olympics, even if possible at Rio, the Paralympics should be included with the main Olympics to make those sportspeople feel that they are acknowledged and not treated as a different species of human beings.