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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Full Stack Software Developer - Javascript

£18000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Strategic Partnerships Coordinator

£16000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Their research appears at the f...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This exciting startup disruptin...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

A promised 'women's museum' opens as a Jack the Ripper exhibit tonight, and I won't take it lying down

Becky Warnock
A protester wears a golden mask and Romanian flag during a demonstration in Bucharest against Gabriel Resources Rosia Montana gold and silver project  

Corporate vampires have tried to suck $4 billion out of Romania, and with TTIP the UK could be next

Kevin Smith
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen