Road to Beijing
- 22 Feb 08, 3:23 PM
Wednesday night saw the BBC’s Inside Sport programme head off to Beijing to report on various aspects of the forthcoming Olympics and Paralympics. Included in the show was a report by Tanni Grey Thompson focussing on the issues facing Paralympians in particular e.g. disabled access and the attitudes of the general Chinese population. Despite the report being far too short to effectively cover these issues (an hour long documentary may only have scratched the surface of them, let alone a 5-minute slot in a magazine programme) it still managed to make some interesting and valid points.
There are an estimated 83 million people with disabilities in China and they are largely shut away, out of sight and out of mind. As a result the ‘normal’ population are unfamiliar with disabilities. Tanni Grey Thompson related a story from a couple of years ago when she visited Beijing; a passer-by actually came over and poked her to see if she was real!
I’m aware that there has been a lot of discussion lately about the pros and cons of disability sport. I’d like to make it clear that I am purely pro-sport. Whether disability sport or not, it is always fascinating to watch competition, particularly on the Olympic/Paralympic stage when we are treated to seeing the best in the world. What hadn’t occurred to me until Inside Sport’s report was how such a huge festival of disability sport could change the way that disability is perceived in China. Whilst sport will (and should) be front and centre during those weeks of competition, disability will also share the spotlight. A whole country of people, largely ignorant of so many disabilities, will be forced to change their views and see disability in a new light. Or as a fellow blogger might say – the ability in disability.
I have to admit that I’m not at all convinced by the IOC’s decision to give Beijing the games, for a myriad of reasons. However, it's said that every Olympics leaves behind some sort of legacy. Let’s hope that Beijing 2008 is remembered as the games that saw China bring its attitude towards disability into the 21st century.
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