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 worldâ€™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 â€“ gender, race, religion, economic â€“ 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 weekâ€™s Pre-Olympic Photo Walk was to capture signs that the Paralympics are also coming to town. I found only two!
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 didnâ€™t realize that was Paralympic clock and were confused there were 44 days to go.
The second sign I found was a banner in an office tower window that read, in part, â€œTMX, proud sponsor of the Canadian Paralympic Foundationâ€.
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 sponsorsâ€™ 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 dayâ€™s highlights.
Even Februaryâ€™s issue O magazine has two articles related to the Olympics. What are the chances the Paralympics will receive the same space in Marchâ€™s issue?
Why have segregated Games? Iâ€™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 Canadaâ€™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, â€œâ€¦shows what Paralympians are capable of doing, that theyâ€™re training at the same level as able-bodied athletesâ€¦â€ 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 doesnâ€™t really matter. Just do your best, kid, and youâ€™ll go far.
There has to be a better way!If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a chai tea latte. Thanks kindly.