So I know you didn’t see the opening ceremonies of the Paralympics if you’re one of my American readers. How do I know, you ask? The US Olympic Committee only sold 5.5 hours of broadcasting rights to NBC. If you’re in Australia you may see 100 hours and, of course, the Brits will get to watch up to 400 hours of programming.
This is interesting because the US Olympic committee seems to think we’re in our “infancy” of enjoying these games. In fact, the rest of the world far surpasses the United States when it comes to engaging athletes with disabilities. Seems to me if we had more access to the games, we’d be better educated about them, and would be able to participate as enthusiastic supporters of our athletes, allowing us to celebrate as a global community. Hmmmm……access, education, participation, community….this is all ringing a bell to me.
Let’s start with the basics. I’m the proud mom of a Special Olympics athlete and those games are so important. They are a place where people with cognitive and developmental disabilities can challenge themselves and be celebrated. These Games are different. The Paralympics are for athletes primarily with physical disabilities. The games were founded in 1948 by Dr. Ludwig Guttmann who used sports as rehabilitation for war veterans with spinal cord injuries. They started in post WWII Britain, and thus they come home.
Have we gotten tired of being inspired or do we still find it hard to believe that people with disabilities can accomplish great things, sometimes even better than their able bodied peers?
Allow me to share some highlights of what you missed at the Paralympics Opening Ceremonies:
*Stephen Hawking spoke, and he’s smarter than you. He’s considered to be the most brilliant theoretical physicist since Einstein but he doesn’t speak. Hawking was able to showcase his poetic thoughts with his augmentative communication device.
*The Olympic flame was zip-lined in by Joe Townsend, future Paralympian. Townsend is a Royal Marine who lost his legs while serving in Afghanistan. There is still a place for him to display his courage and honor.
*Over 4200 athletes from 164 countries will participate in the first Paralympics that sold out it’s opening ceremonies and have had record ticket sales for the rest of the Games. We have 20 wounded warriors participating on the American team. How can you stay seated?
*Former Olympic runner and Chair of the London Organizing Committee Sebastian Coe told the athletes, “You will hear us” and told the audience to “prepare to be inspired…dazzled…moved.”
*Sir Philip Craven, International Paralympic Committee President, said that “your stories will challenge the way people think about inclusion.”
And this is why the Paralympics matter. I will not cease to pound the drum of inclusion. I am inspired by my son and will continue to make a place for him in this world. While this can sometimes be discouraging, I’m choosing this week to get excited, to get on my feet, to cheer, and to celebrate.
I dare you to be inspired. I double dog dare you to make some noise. Will they hear you?
For oodles of information and live streaming check out paralympics.org