Archie Bland: We have to stop patronising Paralympics athletes

Freeview from the editors at i

Share
Related Topics

Even allowing for the fact that we're the home nation, there doesn't seem much doubt that this is the most keenly awaited Paralympics ever. From Channel 4's spine-tingling "Meet the superhumans" trailer to the extraordinary 2.4 million tickets sold so far, the sense of anticipation is palpable. I, for one, can't wait.

And yet. For a lot of people, it still doesn't quite seem the same. Not for nothing has International Paralympic Committee chief Sir Philip Craven called for the word disabled to be dropped, arguing that it indicates that it puts the sport in a ghetto.

There's a critical tonal difference to the way the Paralympics is discussed: a presumption that the Paralympics are as much about the journey as the hoped-for destination on the podium. As a fan of Southampton Football Club, just promoted to the Premier League, I'm used to this patronising tone, and I find it intensely irritating – but at least I have to acknowledge that it's in part justified by the fact that we're not very good. In the Paralympics no such qualification applies.

Well-meaning though it may be, there's something dehumanising about the difference: although I think that Channel 4 ad is a superb piece of work, it's hard to deny that it taps into the same thing – this idea that every one of the competitors has done brilliantly just by showing up. But if you're Oscar Pistorius, wouldn't it rankle a little to be put in the same vast category as the Paralympic Eric the Eel?

The truth is, a lot of people do view Pistorius in this way. Witness a conversation on the BBC coverage of his participation in the Olympic 400m that went unremarked, but which struck me as appalling: Denise Lewis's view was that it was fine for him to be involved from a "humanitarian" point of view, but questions would have to be asked if it looked like he might win. In other words: Pistorius can have a crack if it makes him feel better about not having any legs, but I'm not prepared to take him seriously.

In the end, Pistorius, titan though he undoubtedly is, wasn't good enough for the final at the Olympics. And if we're really serious about treating the two sets of Games equitably, this might be the hardest step: baldy acknowledging facts like that, gently ridiculing the people who are completely hopeless, getting frustrated by whichever Brit proves the Paralympics equivalent of Phillips Idowu.

Sport, after all, is always a tale of disaster as well as triumph. So, yes, I'm looking forward to cheering on our medallists. But I also cheerfully anticipate groaning for the ones who mess it up.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Development Manager

Salary/Rate: £32,000/annum: M&E Global Resources Ltd: Description/Main Duties ...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Application Support Analyst / Junior SQL Server DBA

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established professional services...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

In Sickness and in Health: It’s been lonely in bed without my sleep soulmate

Rebecca Armstrong
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv  

Why do we stand by and watch Putin?

Ian Birrell
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor