I’ve been watching this evening’s Paralympic opening ceremony with an overwhelming feeling of humility at what the Paralympic athletes have overcome in order to compete in the Games. Their stories are moving and inspiring at once, and their athletic achievements are monumental. I blogged last year on International Paralympic Day about Tom Aggar and his fellow GB Paralympic rowers – each of them thoroughly awesome in the word’s truest sense.
Yet one thing bothers me about the Paralympics. Although it’s wonderful that viewing figures are so greatly increased and that the athletes are being celebrated as warmly as their non-disabled team mates, I wonder whether perhaps it’s time to bring them into the fold once and for all. In the World Rowing Championships last year, I was struck by the way in which the adaptive events were interspersed amongst the able-bodied ones, with no fuss or particular comment. Apart from the distance they rowed, the adaptive rowers were treated exactly like all of the other athletes.
That must, surely, be what we should ultimately be aiming for and would bring real equality to disabled athletes. Sure, it’d make the Olympics longer and logistically a bit tricky. But it can’t be beyond the wit of man – or woman (time to step aside, Lord Coe?) – to come up with a way of making it work.
I’d love to know what you think. Is it time the Paralympics were fused with the Olympics? Let’s start the debate.