Seventeen days after the country, and the world, were held enamoured by the 2012 Olympics, a peak audience of 11.2 million tuned in to watch the opening ceremony of the Paralympics; a massive four times the number that tuned in to watch its last opening ceremony. And although this is significantly less than the 26.9 million that tuned in to the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, coupled with the fact that ticket sales for the Paralympics have also been extraordinary, its undoubtedly a massive improvement
But why do we care more, now, than ever before? And what effect will this have on attitudes towards disability?
The existence of Martine Wright, a Paralympic athlete who lost both her legs in the 2005 London bombings is perhaps as good an example as any in terms of why over 14 million people, who previously didn’t really care about the Paralympics, now do.
After all, what’s more heartwarming, uplifting and inspiring than the tale of triumph overcoming adversity? Of strength and persistence transcending misfortune? And, as is human nature, this is all the more so when it’s something that could happen to any one of us. As one of the presenters at the Paralympics opening ceremony said after speaking to Martine, “fate is what happens to us, destiny is what we do with it.”
But why do we care so much more than we did four years ago? And suddenly, it clicks. We need this. We are a generation that is being told we will be the first, ever, to live worse than our parents. We are a generation that is struggling to find jobs, to find housing, to fund the lifestyles that are more and more being hailed as imperative. We need this.
And so our fascination with the Paralympics? Undeniably at the least partially linked to one simple fact; that every story ever told centers around one truth; that good will overcome evil. That faith will triumph in the face of difficulty.
Little Red Riding Hood beating the big, bad wolf, Snow White triumphing over the evil Queen, Paralympians conquering adversity. We need this.
“The Olympic athletes created role models for non-disabled people…” said Ben Rushgrove – a sprinter who has cerebral palsy and is due to compete in the 100m and 200m during this years Paralympic games.
“…The Paralympics I’m expecting will create role models for both disabled and non-disabled people. If people are impressed by the running of Usain Bolt for instance they might say: “I could never be that quick.” But what about the achievements of an athlete with one leg for example?”
Will it change attitudes on disability? How can they not? After all the good is the handicapable, and the bad are simply all those who don’t believe in the power of strength, hard work and perseverance.