Paralympics: How about we treat participants as athletes and show the sports?

You can’t really say the U.S. media had no impact on the Paralympics. Jay-Z is part of the media, and he added a Paralympic/Olympic-specific verse to Coldplay’s Paradise at the Closing Ceremony.

The Closing Ceremony drew a peak audience of 7.7 million, by the way. That’s in Britain, of course — not here in the USA, where we could only watch via streams.

And the lack of Paralympic coverage is something NBC might need to explain when the next Olympic broadcast rights are up for negotiation. (HT: ThinkProgress)

To be fair to NBC, it’s not as if the rest of the U.S. media rushed to fill the void in Paralympics coverage.

Perhaps one reason the Paralympics don’t get much play in the USA is that we forget to think of Paralympians as athletes. A BBC roundup of leading countries, their medals, and their media led to this conclusion:

Most news coverage has focused not on results or the medal chase, but on human interest stories or curiosities, with headlines such as “Shark attack survivor wins bronze.”

Contrast that with another quote in that roundup: Paralympian Josh George via The New York Times:

Even more amazing than the fact that Londoners have opened their arms and hearts to the Paralympics is the fact that they are interested in us for our athletic ability, not the fact that we don’t spend every day in our rooms crying about the fact that we can’t walk, or are missing a limb or two.

South Park has probably said it best on several occasions: People with disabilities often just want to live as everyone else does. And maybe we should focus on wheelchair rugby as a fun sport to watch instead of trumping up the “human interest” angle. We’re all “human.” Paralympians happen to be great athletes as well.

Then again, don’t we often hear the same criticism about NBC’s Olympic coverage?

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Beau Dure

The guy who wrote a bunch of soccer books and now runs a Gen X-themed podcast while substitute teaching and continuing to write freelance stuff.

2 thoughts on “Paralympics: How about we treat participants as athletes and show the sports?”

  1. Going to play devil’s advocate here.

    People with disabilities just want to live as everyone else does; that’s true. But Paralympians are only Paralympians because of their disabilities. They are being celebrated precisely because of their disabilities – and what they can achieve athletically despite those disabilities.

    So it’s a little disingenuous to say you want to be treated just like able-bodied people, when the whole existence of the Paralympics depends on disparate treatment.

  2. That’s a legitimate question. But we in the USA end up failing to see the “what they can achieve athletically” part, and I’d argue that defeats the purpose.

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