Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Motivational Speaker

The Paralympics, The Lesser Games

Filed under: Advocacy — by at 6:41 pm on Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Today efforts are being made to include people with disabilities in the classroom, in the workplace, in the community. So, why in hell is the world’s largest sporting event still segregated into the Olympics and the Paralympics? Are sports stuck in ancient Greek times?

If the Olympics were divided along any other lines – gender, race, religion, economic – there would be an outcry worldwide! Yet, segregation based on ability or disability is acceptable?

Not only are the Games segregated, but the Paralympic Games and athletes do not receive anywhere near the attention as the Olympic Games do. My main mission for last week’s Pre-Olympic Photo Walk was to capture signs that the Paralympics are also coming to town. I found only two!

Paralympic Winter Games 2010 ccountdown clock in downtown Vancouver

First, on the opposite side of the Olympic countdown clock, I was pleased (and somewhat relieved) to see an official clock for the Paralympics. Interestingly, watching people taking photos in front of the Olympic clock, they did not then go to the backside for photos of the Paralympic clock. And, those people coming across the plaza didn’t realize that was Paralympic clock and were confused there were 44 days to go.

Sponsor banner in office window

The second sign I found was a banner in an office tower window that read, in part, “TMX, proud sponsor of the Canadian Paralympic Foundation”.

Those were the only two signs I found that elite athletes, albeit with disabilities, are also coming to Vancouver. How welcomed will they feel?

Watch the Games official sponsors’ TV ads. How many include Paralympians? The current ad by Bell, Premier National Partner and Exclusive Telecommunications Partner for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, does not show any Paralympic events or athletes. Furthermore, the ad says the Games are 17 days. Do the math: February 12th-28th + March 12th-21st is not 17 days!

The Olympics will be broadcasted ad nauseam; the Paralympics? You will likely have to wait until the Late Night News for a 30-second clip of the day’s highlights.

Even February’s issue O magazine has two articles related to the Olympics. What are the chances the Paralympics will receive the same space in March’s issue?

Why have segregated Games? I’m not saying have combined events with both able-bodied and disabled athletes. Although, watching Roberto Luongo and his professional athlete buddies play against the Paralympian sledge hockey team would make for a far more interesting game rather than another NHL-style gold medal game! But, combine the Games, like the how the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, United Kingdom, included a handful of Para-Sports. Granted, there were only ten events in which elite athletes with disabilities could compete, but a step in the right direction was taken. The Parade of Athletes, athlete village and such were inclusive. 

Brian McKeever, a member of Canada’s cross-country ski team who also happens to be legally blind, will be the first-ever athlete to compete in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. In an interview, Brian said, in part, “…shows what Paralympians are capable of doing, that they’re training at the same level as able-bodied athletes…” How will his two experiences compare? Will he receive similar sponsorship, media attention and public attention at both Games?

What do we tell our youth with disabilities?

Work hard and try your best, and one day you could go to the Paralympics too! You may not receive the same sponsorships, the TV cameras may not be there, and the spectators may be fewer, but all of that doesn’t really matter. Just do your best, kid, and you’ll go far.

There has to be a better way!

If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.

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Comment by karenL

February 3, 2010 @ 7:26 pm

I’m not a big fan of the event in general, but I am totally with you … what would the *harm* be in having ALL elite athletes performing on the world stage.

Let’s face it. We like-minded people might have to … I don’t know … do it ourselves?!

Comment by Todd Jordan

February 3, 2010 @ 7:50 pm

This hurts to hear about Glenda. I’d wager most folks don’t even know about the Paralympics. They’re not getting the TV time here that the Olympics are, nor other news coverage.

Thanks for reminding us about that and making us think.

Hugs and high-fives. Rock the Olympics gal!

Comment by Art Perez

February 3, 2010 @ 8:48 pm

Great blog you have here, I’m very inspired for arll the hard work you put on this blog.
You truly are an inspiration.
Keep the hard work going
Thank you

Comment by Candy Harrington

February 3, 2010 @ 8:52 pm

I agree, the games should be integrated, but some folks in the “disabled community” feel that “wouldn’t be fair”. And the quotes were on purpose…(sarcastic). If you’re an athlete, you’re an athlete..period. Dis or AB, they can compete on a level playing field. Period. And I’m talking about physical disabilities, not cognitive.


Comment by Catherine

February 4, 2010 @ 5:30 am

Hi Glenda, I have been following your posts for a while and think you are an inspiration. However, this topic compelled me to comment. As far as I was aware, the olympics ARE divided by gender, for the most part. Most sports do have seperate male and female categories, which is generally widely accepted.

I do agree that the Olympics and Paralympics should combine, that I agree very much on! I think if enough awareness is spread on the matter, this could be a possibility in the future.

At the end of the day, Olympics is a “bigger” event than the Paralympics, in the same way that perhaps one sport (or tv show or event) is more popular than another. It has reached a wider audience through the likes of sponsorship and marketing, as you rightly mentioned, and I think it has more to do with that, rather than any injustice or disrespect to disability. But again, I think that this will change in the future to bring more equality.

With regards to the message for disabled children, whereby you say (I presume sarcastically): “You may not receive the same sponsorships, the TV cameras may not be there, and the spectators may be fewer, but all of that doesn’t really matter. ” I don’t think it is appropriate to lure any child, whatever their ability, into the world of competitive sport, with the reward of sponsorships, tv cameras and the grandure of alot of spectators. What happened to taking part in something for the passion, for the love of the sport? For the constant enjoyment of participation and feeling of self worth that comes with it, that has no bearing on how popular you are?

Thank you for sharing such a thought provoking blog, I look forward to reading more from you!

Comment by Debra Helwig

February 4, 2010 @ 7:57 am


When my city, Atlanta, hosted the 1996 Summer Games, we suffered the same dearth of attention for the Paralympics, and it infuriated me then. My family attended both Paralympic and Olympic fencing that year, and I can say with no doubt that the Paralympic fencing was more exciting and required more hand speed and skill than the Olympic events. It was one of my favorite sporting moments ever. We attended the Paralympic Goalball events as well and were spellbound by the sport’s intricacy and the players’ skill. Why, oh why, can’t the world get a clue and realize these games are every bit the height of achievement that the Olympics are?

But now you’ve identified the problem – the big question is how to fix it and get the games equal stature and concurrent timing. I would think such a movement would almost have to start with the athletes themselves, – they likely have the best inroads into the sporting franchise that controls how the various games are run. But if a popular outcry would do anything to make a difference, sign me up to say something!

Comment by Glenda

February 5, 2010 @ 12:44 am

Karen, exactly! What is the harm in having ALL elite athletes on ONE world stage!

Since my plate is rather full with changing the world in other way, mind if I delegate this one…say…to you? 😉

Comment by Glenda

February 5, 2010 @ 12:47 am

Todd, it is a shame. But, perhaps with social media, there is a way to fill the gap left by traditional media. What do you think?

Comment by Glenda

February 5, 2010 @ 12:47 am

Welcome Art, and thank you!

Comment by Glenda

February 5, 2010 @ 12:53 am

Candy, no doubt some in the disabled community would be against the idea. Although, I’m not suggesting mixed events, per se, but rather all of the events combined under one Games.

Comment by Glenda

February 5, 2010 @ 1:06 am

Welcome Catherine! I appreciate you’ve been reading for a while and are jumping into the conversation.

I see what you mean by the events are segregated by gender. I was referring to the Olympic Games as a whole aren’t segregated along those other lines. There’s one Parade of Athletes!

And, yes, perhaps my advice to youth with disabilities was a little tongue-in-cheek. But, what do you tell a kid when he works as hard as his able-bodied peer who is getting the “goodies” and he isn’t? Doesn’t enjoyment and self-worth go only so far?

Comment by Glenda

February 5, 2010 @ 1:19 am

Debra, THANK YOU! Thank you for sharing your experience of how Paralympians are equally athletic, if not more so, than Olympians!

I believe the problem is definitely fixable, if there’s a willingness to fix it. Perhaps the movement towards a solution begins, in part, here in blogs and comments to raise awareness that the Paralympics even exist, to increase support for our Paralympians and then work towards combining the two Games. This is so possible!

Comment by Adelaide Dupont

February 10, 2010 @ 7:44 pm

Sydneysiders really enjoyed the Paralympics when it came in 2000.

There were so many newspaper articles in the big sports papers. Granted, there were liftouts for the Olympics for each day.

The Athenian opening and closing ceremony were great too.

And I remember great events in Beijing, like the cycling.

In the Commonwealth Games, too, there are events for Elite Athletes with a Disability. That makes the point that many of these people (like Louise Sauvage and Chantal Petitclerc: BIG rivalry that one) are Elite Athletes.

Comment by starrlife

February 27, 2010 @ 2:49 pm

I put in a good word for the Special Olympics too! I did see a commercial that had all three Olympics in it- wish I could remember who it was ? ATand T? I forget.

Comment by disability aids

May 18, 2010 @ 7:12 am


What an inspiring post, i agree that not enough focus is put on paralympic games. Hopefully social media can help raise the profile!

Comment by Tim Carr

April 10, 2012 @ 9:15 am

Good post. And I agree, Adelaide, so many Paralympic athletes are elite in ways that people like me simply cannot comprehend — they’re just too talented.

This year, at least, Oscar Pistorius will be taking part in the ‘main’ Olympics.

Comment by Ray Phillips

August 14, 2012 @ 9:15 am

I am a proponent of the ‘Olympics’ being the ‘Olympics’. Not Olympics or Paralympics or Seniors Olympics or Junior Olympics or Men’s Olympics or Women’s Olympics or Summer Olympics or Winter Olympics.
Let’s start by dismissing the mythology of a ‘Greek Olympian’ who competed minus an arm or a leg in the summer only.
Today the ‘Olympics’ should be viewed as a contest of ‘athletic excellence’. I’m have no opinion about the logistics of an all-inclusive ‘Olympics’. There is no doubt in my mind that the ‘Olympics’, for all the world to see on television, is a commercial venture. Let’s all hope the integration doesn’t become a spectacular televised event whose sponsors include the next ‘bionic human parts manufacturer’ and ‘Viagra’. Sorry to appear so cynical, but this seems to be going to places that no taxpayer with a conscience would like to envisage.
The ‘Olympics’ is a commercialized entertainment event … nothing more or less than a televised reality show. What do you really think the driving force behind the Olympics is? If not for television, would you listen to it on the radio?

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