Equal Billing for Olympic & Paralympic Athletes

10. September, 2012 Opinion, Sport 2 comments

London 2012 Olympic Stadium Closing WIld RoosterThe curtain has been brought down on the London 2012 Paralympic Games, marking the end of the greatest summer of sport in Britain. Two months on from the incredible opening of the Olympic Games, we are left with indelible memories and high emotions. New heroes have been taken to our hearts and the billions who watched the sporting action from London have shared so many awe-inspiring moments and enjoyed countless unforgettable experiences.

The support for athletes competing in both the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games was tremendous. People came together in the spirit of fair competition to celebrate the power of human commitment and struggle to do their best, regardless of their medal hopes. Across the World, people got behind their teams, cheering them to victory, while military personnel and volunteer games makers ensured that the experience was a smooth for athletes and supporters alike.

London Creates A Party For The World

London made this by far the biggest, most successful and best attended Paralympic Games. Ticket sales far outweigh anything seen before, with every event a virtual sell out and crowds at all venues delivered a deafening reception for all the athletes. Those lucky enough to watch at the sporting venues, as well as millions viewing online and on TV, were treated to some of the most amazing, most inspirational and most breathtaking sporting feats every seen.

That these athletes have to deal with disabilities of one kind or another became almost irrelevant as we screamed at the screen to encourage the athletes towards the finish line. True athletes were battling it out on track, field and in the water to break records, win medals and achieve personal bests. And records were not just broken: in many cases they were smashed. Any uncertainty about amputee swimmers, blind runners or paraplegic rugby players soon wore off when the excitement of the competition firmly embedded its hooks.

Top Paralympic athletes face the same challenges as able-bodied Olympic athletes. They need funding and facilities, they must adapt their lives to allow for a strict training schedule, and they have to travel long distances to train and compete. On top of that, these athletes have to take control of their bodies rather than allow their bodies to take control of them. They do not allow their disabilities to be disabling. They find a way to get around their impairment, never forgetting it is there, but not allowing it to rule their lives. Like any athlete, a Paralympian does not stop until they have achieved their personal best.

Inspirational Stories of Paralympic Struggle

Of course, the Paralympics threw up some very inspirational stories, many of which can bring a lump to the throat. Either heartbreaking or heartening, these tales of triumph over adversity provided the backstory to truly incredible sporting endeavours.

David Weir London Paralympics 2012 Wild Rooster

Whether it was the shock-and-awe of wheelchair basketball, the jaw-dropping display of one-legged high jump, or the incredible achievements in the pool or velodrome, the Paralympic Games produced hours of memorable and entertaining viewing.

Who could not be feel the swell of emotion as they were gripped by the excitement of athletes running on blades, or the thrill of wheelchair racing?

The Olympic Games has been tagged the most social games, due to the way that fans embraced the range of social media to post updates, share comments and offer encouragement.

When medals were won, records were broken or incredible performances were witnessed in the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the news set off around the world via social media. We could share in the excitement.

Thanks to Twitter, Facebook and the like, people around the world have stayed on top of how their team was faring in the medals table and how their nation’s athletes were performing. It built an excitement and anticipation around Games, raising the profile of less familiar sports and celebrating the new stars that were created on an almost daily basis.

Missed Opportunity For Serbian Paralympians

The fact that these Games have been so rewarding makes it even more frustrating that the lack of Serbian media support for the Paralympic Games has been so disappointing. The gold medals have been reported, the world record was proudly brandished as an opportunity for Serbia to be best in the world at something, but the athletes and their stories have been virtually ignored. Beyond the hardened sports fans, few people in the country even know the number of medals that have been won by Serbian athletes.

In large part, that can be put down to poor media exposure in the country, but the Serbian Paralympic Committee should also take some responsibility. The organising team responsible for the athletes and their contact with media seem to have been so overwhelmed by the scale of events that they could not even update their own social media outlets to share the performances of their athletes. Indeed, they have been poor at communicating outside of the standard press conferences, facilitated by the London organisers.

When the Serbian Olympic Team was in London, they prepared the ground for an international event and welcomed international media to raise the profile of Serbian sport. The Serbian Embassy hosted an event for the athletes and two London venues were turned over to celebrate those linked to Team Serbia. Not so for the Paralympics. For these Serbian athletes a red carpet has not been rolled out and an opportunity to communicate the success stories has been missed.

Increased Support Attracts Increased Funds

For Serbian athletes competing in London, that is a real pity. For people in Serbia who want to know what is happening at the Games in London, it is a shame. For Paralympic sport in Serbia, it is quite short sighted. The organisers who will be complaining that funding for Paralympic sport is so low will forget that one of the benefits of signing about your success is that it goes a long way to generating additional support.

The Olympic and Paralympic Games are about the athletes. They are about celebrating the personal achievements, encouraging the young athletes who are coming up in the background, and praising those who wished for better. These Games are about coming together as nations with a common ambition and commitment. These Paralympic medal winners are just as much sporting heroes for Serbia as the other sports stars that are so loved in the country. Let us hope that everyone can now treat the Olympic and Paralympic Games with the same deserved respect and attention.

Wannabe Magazine Serbia Marcus Agar Wild Rooster Markus EjgarMarcus Agar has been commissioned by Wannabe Magazine to write personal observations. Click for Serbian (translator: Ranko Trifković) or for an interview in English or Serbian.

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  1. Ithacanexile

    9 / 10 / 2012 3:03 pm

    Good article, the Paralympics, for me, was an outstanding success for London, the UK and Paralympic sport in general. The whole London 2012 organisation made me proud to be British in the way we put the Paralympics on an equal footing with the Olympics. Of course it shouldn’t stop there, we still have a way to go with ensuring equal treatment for disabled people in general, parts of the Tube are still off limits to wheelchair users, and the austerity cuts are disadvantageous to the disabled. We must treat this as a start to levelling the fied for all.

    Serbia could look to Bosnia & Hercegovina for ideas, the victory of the BiH Men’s sitting volleyball team over perennial rivals Iran was great to see, and the relative size of the BiH Paralympic team compared to their Olympic team is encouraging to see that at least some funding is available to disabled BiH athletes and it is not all wasted on the paralysed government in BiH.

    Hopefully Rio 2016 will be better for Serbian Paralympic sport, and they have a better setup, but at the moment that is only a hope, what the SPC needs is people who can translate that hope to results.


    • 9 / 11 / 2012 11:52 am

      Thanks for your comment. I agree with your comments about the London 2012 events and organisation. The challenge ahead is to ensure that the momentum is maintained. For that, there will need to be effort and support from all quarters, including the athletes, the government and in communities up and down the country.

      Your comment regarding the Bosnian athletes is a good one, too. The team had an uphill struggle but they triumphed. I am sure that their victory will go a long with for paralympic sport in their country. It would be good to think that all countries can look again at what can be achieved through the spirit of sport and will see that paralympians should be seen as equal to able bodied athletes. Rio 2016 is a good target for which these teams can aim to improve their infrastructure and support. I hope that the results will speak for themselves.





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