Less than generic Paralympic moan

Hello again blog,

It turns out, after ages of having nothing that exciting to write about, that I have a whole list of subjects that I want to share with the world now.  Sadly, today is a nice sunny day and I need to do some training for our school’s insane 9 km run on Thursday.  I am not letting any of my 13 year olds beat me.  So you are just going to get one.

It harks back to the Olympics and the Paralympics.  I love them both and my last blog was full of praise.  However – I have to confess that although I was interested, and I watched the news about it, I never actually watched any of the Paralympics live.  I do think of it; frustratingly as it isn’t true, second rate sport.

Let me try and explain why before I get the barrage of abuse.

Some of the sports are really cool, and well adapted.  Goalball is a tactical minefield.  Blind football needs strong team discipline.  Wheelchair racing can be as dramatic as F1 racing.  Wheelchair rugby is a hardcore intense battleground.  Great sports.

I remember though watching on the news about one man who competes in the London Marathon in the wheelchair race.  He isn’t disabled.  He therefore isn’t allowed into any other competitions.  Now, obviously this man will be able to generate more force from the back etc. than some of the other athletes, and categories are therefore important, but would probably be at a somewhat disadvantage at least in the race (perhaps not in training) than amputee athletes due to carrying excess weight. 

For me, everything I have done and preached has been about inclusion of all wherever we can.   It forms a professional and political belief.  The Paralympics is again showing the troubles of an organization focusing on its own, forgetting about the key principles of integration that promoted the movement in the early steps.  Why can’t Lionel Messi wear a blindfold and play for the blind football team?  Why can’t Kobe Bryant slot into a place on the wheelchair basketball team?  Or Roger Federer in the tennis? 

Why should it self-discriminate even when the sport is equal?  Why sideline competition for all – an inclusiveness dream – in favour of ensuring the disabilities rather than the sports are always the focus? 

Of course, I need to be careful here to be sensitive to the effort and dedication these Paralympians have to go through to get there – it can be a hard and lonely road – and for others to come in and steal those spots in the limelight is a concern.  However fair and fun sport should be the overriding idea here – the best sports across the world are those with an equal playing field for all shapes and sizes. 

Paralympic sport should just be sport – wherever possible – which is not always possible.  Including in the Olympics would be great – but it has failed on so many attempts previously (Commonwealth games in Manchester the most high profile in the UK) because they have neglected to consider the categories enough.  Those sports that can’t be combined, or need the special categories, still need to have that recognized, however politically awkward for sport they have to be, and this idea can’t change that.  Maybe, in the future, but not now.  For now, manage it as it is – let able-bodied athletes compete alongside disabled athletes in the Paralympics where the scientists rule that it can be done and is fair.  In exactly the same way the scientists let Pistorius run in the Olympics.

Equality is all it needs to be.

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