Broadcasters must seize on this surge in interest

Our writer, who broke limbs in a cycling accident over a year ago, says an amazing thing happened to him over the past fortnight

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The Independent Online

I will remember these Paralympics for the rest of my life because during them something amazing happened. My right foot, dead for over a year, twitched as a muscle in my calf suddenly woke from its lengthy sleep.

Nerves are funny things. Did the excitement and the adrenaline of the last week help to clear a blockage or open a new pathway? Could the Paralympic sports I tried, the wheelchair tennis and basketball which worked muscles I didn't know existed, have roused it from sleep? 

Probably it was just time for that small part of me to emerge from hibernation, sealing another small victory in the battle to overcome my disabilities.

The Games helped that battle by keeping my aims high. The athletes were an inspiration. I've also detected some encouraging signs that the attitude people have towards disabled people generally might be changing. I rather hope this might be felt by the Coalition and its creature, Atos, the next time a terminally ill cancer patient is denied support.

But at their core, the Games were an intense and competitive sporting spectacular, the equal of the Olympics that went before them.

The eyes of people I've bumped into and chatted with about them weren't just opened by the incredible things people with less than fully functional bodies can achieve. They were also opened by some thrilling sporting contests.

The question being asked by broadcasters now is whether the unprecedented level of interest in disability sport is an anomaly created by the fact that the Games were in London.

I don't think it is. The crowds I witnessed were passionate, partisan and engaged. Just as they were during the Olympics. Murderball or Wheelchair Rugby, was the hottest ticket in a town that has a multitude of attractions. The Wheelchair Basketball from which it emerged, drew rave reviews.

And why not? Wheelchair Basketball at its best is every bit as balletic as the able bodied equivalent is at its best and the bash and crash of the chairs adds extra spice.

As for the classifications used in disability sports that can cause confusion and sometimes controversy? They're just part of these games' rich tapestry. And they add an interesting bit of tactical chess to the team sports.

But now I want to see whether Aaron Phipps, David Anthony, Kylie Grimes and the rest can take a wheel forward in wheelchair rugby and serve it up to the US and Australia.

I want to see Terry Bywater, Abdi Jama and the rest of the wheelchair basketball crew bringing their run of defeats against Canada to an end. I want to see more of Johnny Peacock, David Weir, Hannah Cockcroft, Ellie Simmonds and... I just want more.

I don't know if the London Paralympics opened my blocked nerve pathway. I do know they opened my eyes. I don't believe I'm alone. Broadcasters: That means viewers, which means advertisers, as Channel Four has discovered. Hopefully the discussions it is involved in about screening further events involving Paralympic sports will bear fruit.

There's talk of running a Wheelchair Rugby event alongside the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Think about that, ITV.

Last week I looked through one day's schedules of eight sports channels. I found Polo, Australian Rules Football, Australian Rugby League, Major League Baseball, Surfing, American College Football, British Superbikes, The Tour of Spain (Cycling), Triathlon, and Mountain Biking.

Is it really such a leap to add some Paralympic sports to that mix Sky, ESPN, Eurosport?

Of course, the BBC doesn't need advertisers. Where is it in all this? Don't its disabled viewers count?

The Paralympic flame might have been extinguished. Its light shouldn't be allowed to go out. 

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