2012 Games marks the coming of age for the Paralympics. For all its merits and positive sentiments in prior years, this year marked when their achievements stood shoulder to shoulder with the ‘conventional’ Olympics.
Perhaps not quite as big bucks, but commercially successful. For all the cynics spoilt by the public broadcaster BBC and moaning about the Channel 4 adverts, I applauded every time another commercial was aired. Commercial success is the true acid test of not just public acceptance, but public enthusiasm. London had already smashed attendance records. Not just in the numbers attending, but in the numbers paying.
But I was most intrigued for the review of the broadcasts by Sunday Times critic A.A. Gill. Hard to impress at any time, but even he gave an ovation to the Paralympic broadcasts (paywalled) to the point where, like me, he actually preferred a number of aspects of the Paralympic to the Olympics themselves…
- “The most profound record that has been broken at the Paralympics is the time between noticing a disability and forgetting about it. In some disciplines, it’s mere hundredths of a second. Every choked commentator has pointed out that these are games about ability, not disability. Indeed, in some of them, the misfortune turns out to be an improvement. Wheelchair basketball is far more elegant, skilful and exciting than the bipedal version, where we just watch flat-footed giants jogging up and down a gym, dropping balls through hoops. In wheelchairs, it’s like convertible Daleks. Watching both sets of Games back to back has posed interesting questions about the nature of normal. If you look at the gamut of being human as a sliding scale, then a one-armed swimmer seems to be no further from the median than a swimmer with clown’s feet and shoulders that couldn’t fit through a regular door frame. At this level of sport, the contestants in both Games are differently abled. I can see a time when we just have a single event with varied categories of astonishing humans.”