Watching some of the athletics sessions at the Paralympics at the Olympic Park last week was a humbling experience. I couldn´t make it to the Olympics, so I had to make it to the Paralympics and watch the `super humans´in action.
I think that the whole thing has done a lot to change our perception of disability, with the help of what seems to be an effective marketing campaign. In fact, there has been plenty of publicity about the Paralympics in London to raise awareness of the whole event, especially over the past few months. There is a good and short video at the bottom of this entry where you can see some of this advertising – quite cool a promo.
It may be true that one of the main motivations is money. Hosting the Summer Olympics also involves hosting the Paralympics, which I´m guessing must not be particularly cheap. The organisation probably needs to make some extra arrangements to the usual logistics too, such as especialist teams to oversee the athletes´ unusual equipment.
On the other hand, times do change for the better sometimes. I know a bit about living with a disability, as someone close to me had one when I was little. Back then, the lack of knowledge and negative perceptions were pretty much the reason why there was hardly any help and funds to make their lives and their carers´ easier.
At the event, I do not think many of us in the audience thought of them as being incapable or not normal. The competitions were quite exciting.
We cheered them as much as people cheered the other athletes. What they did was awesome – how fast they could run without stumbling, blind as some of them were, or jump with only one leg without hurting themselves.
This does not mean that the non-disabled athletes didn´t do brilliantly. In my own experience, the same athletics disciplines for non-disabled people are quite hard at a competitive level. Think about our regular gym classes and how hard they can be for the rest of us sometimes.
Technology is also here to help change perceptions. I could see in person some of the equipment that I had seen in pictures. Rather impressive blades and wheelchairs, which they moved using only their own bodies. In fact, the athlets raced so fast on their wheelchairs. They had a lot more strength in their bodies than I do in my whole body!
I saw those wheelchairs a bit closer during the marathon. It must not be that easy to move those wheelchairs a single metre.
Inside the Olympic Park was kind of ugly, to be honest. But, hey. The atmosphere and the volunteers helped make everything a great experience. Some volunteers sat in tall chairs and tried to make us laugh by telling us a joke. Some also told us the many hours they had been there. I hope they get rewarded.
Thanks for reading. See you soon!