THE BLOG

Why Are Paralympians Being Treated As Second Class Athletes?

12/09/2016 01:09
Matthew Stockman via Getty Images

When a city is chosen to host the Olympic Games, they are also chosen to host the Paralympic Games - a showcase of the world's best sporting talent from disabled athletes. Both the Olympics and Paralympics are a huge spectacle and attract the world's best sportspeople to compete. So why is it that often when a city is chosen to host the Olympic Games, the Paralympics are seen as a burden and inconvenience?

Rio de Janeiro is the first Latin American country to host the Paralympics, meaning they are showcasing the continent's attitude to disability and disabled access to the world. However, it certainly feels like the organisers consider this to be burden rather than an opportunity- especially with the drastic budget cuts as of late. IPC president Sir Philip Craven recently said: "Never in the 56-year history of the Paralympic Games have we faced circumstances like this." If you follow my Huffington Post contributions, you will know I only write about things that tend to annoy me. It is fair to say the Paralympics have infuriated me so far!

One major issue with the competition is Brazil's apparent lack of dedication to the games. The Olympic Opening Ceremony was of course watched by nearly everybody on free to air television. It was a stark contrast to the Paralympics though, as in order to watch the opening ceremony you needed a subscription to some obscure channel which owned the broadcasting rights. That is like 'Dave' showing the coverage in the UK! The irony is of course the aim of the Paralympics is to make things more accessible, unless you can't afford a satellite TV package of course.

The athletes have also so clearly been treated as second class citizens. With the Olympics, every single sporting event was filmed by the host broadcaster and was available for audiences to watch. With the Paralympics, it has been a completely different story. There are currently no television cameras being used at all to record some sporting events including the rowing. As a result, Channel 4 resorted to sending their own camera crews out to the rowing venue so viewers in the UK could enjoy at least some sort of coverage. When a country can't even commit to providing cameras and live coverage of all sporting events, should they even be allowed to host the games? If I was a Paralympic rower I would be quite livid that my able bodied counterparts were being showcased live to the world whereas I would have to be content with a few people on the river bank waving at me.

The press do not help close the discriminatory gap between the Olympics and Paralympics either. When the likes of Laura Trott and Andy Murray were winning gold medals in August, it was both front page and back page news. The newspapers dedicated glossy pull-outs in tribute of the athletes and demanded that they should bestowed with honours. On the contrary, Paralympic coverage doesn't begin in most newspapers until 18 pages from the back!

The lack of funding Paralympic athletes receive is also evident. The United States should be dominating the medal table if their performance in the Olympics is anything to go by. In contrast at the time of writing this article, the US trail behind Ukraine in the medal rankings. At least Channel 4 and Clare Balding take the event seriously, their coverage has been great so far (or at least for the events they are able to show).

All in all, the Paralympic athletes might have to deal with underfunding, discriminatory bias and empty stadiums, but at least they don't have contemplate with a green pool!

Comments

CONVERSATIONS