Paralympics: Should it be merged with the Olympics?

So the Paralympics is drawing to a close and the big question is, was it all worth it? The games certainly didn’t get off to a good start. The entire Russian team was banned and there were huge questions over whether Brazil was going to be able to fund it. Once it got started, though, all these problems seemed to die away. The African states who were threatened with not receiving their travel money received their funds; the banned Russian team were quietly forgotten. Even the empty seats were filled when the Brazilians wisely reduced the ticket price so that citizens could actually afford to get in.

I started this blog post fully meaning to say no, it’s not worth it and that the Paralympics should be merged with the Olympics. Although disability sport isn’t a topic I’ve ever given a lot of thought to, for a long time I’ve supported an inclusive rather than a segregated approach as I do with all (or most) aspects of disability. At a fundamental level, segregation of disabled people is little different than segregation on grounds of race or gender. If women’s events are included in the Olympics, why not disabled people’s? People with disabilities are being marked out as inferior by their very separation. If we’re going to have commercialised disability sport at all it ought to be part of the main Olympics.

The Paralympics began in post-war Britain and at that time institutionalised segregation was the norm. But unlike other parts of British life it hasn’t been undone.

In the course of writing this blog post, though, and more particularly watching the enthusiasm of Brazil for its own games, I’m no longer so sure a segregated games isn’t for the best. It does seem likely that as a standalone event the Paralympics has a greater social impact. That’s likely to be particularly true in host cities where the necessity of staging a large event and welcoming lots of elite international disabled athletes can hardly fail to have some kind of positive effect. Also, in those countries like Britain that do choose to televise the games, the media coverage is surely greater than it would otherwise be.

In the ideal society I still believe the Paralympics and Olympics would be merged, but I’m not convinced that ideal point will ever be reached. Disabled people will never really be understood by most people. I’ll write more about why I think that is the case in future blog posts. But for now the best we can do is put aside the ideals and opt for what works best in the real world.

paralympics-olympics-medal-table

Comparison of countries’ performance in the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games


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Posted in disability, paralympics, personal
One comment on “Paralympics: Should it be merged with the Olympics?
  1. leten1994 says:

    “People with disabilities are being marked out as inferior by their very separation. ”
    (This quote really stuck with me)

    I was blown away by this article. Through my research into Disability sport i have been trying to come across the right answer in regard to the merge of Paralympic Events and Olympic Events. However, in what you have stated above, i too cannot narrow down a specific answer.
    It can be seen that not only are the Paralympic events not broadcast as well as the Olympics, but you are precise when you are to say that other people do not consider the sports as appealing, talent or entertainment wise. This is the main issue. Underestimating those with a disability and their ability to compete in sport. However i also came to the main conclusion that maybe the segregated event is for the best. Now, i do see a lot of benefits that has to come with a merge, however , the most important factor in my opinion is awareness. I believe the Paralympics provides more focus on the event itself as a singularity, giving it some kind or rarity or novelty in the community. This is one of its greatest assets. Its greater social impact and its ability to be recognised as its own event. This gives it more accreditation.

    Please feel free to like and follow my pages as i am interested in what you have been writing about!

    http://www.disabilityintoability.wordpress.com
    http://www.facebook.com/sportabilityel
    http://www.twitter.com/sportabilityel

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