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Getting to the starting line at the Paralympics: easier for some than others

Will boccia – which is played by athletes with cerebral palsy – get the same media coverage as other, higher-profile sports? Comisión Nacional de Cultura Física y Deporte

In watching the opening ceremony of the Paralympics I can’t help but be struck by a number of divides and how these may or may not play out over the coming weeks. The first involves the divide between developed and developing nations with respect to the science of sport performance and sport technology. The second involves the relative coverage of disability type and disability sports across the games.

Just as we observed with the Olympics, we see a divide between the developed nations and the developing nations where in some sports the developing nations cannot get to the starting line because of the combination of sports science and technology.

One of my lasting memories from the Beijing games was watching an athlete line up for a sprint event in a standard wheelchair while competing against other athletes in their specially designed racing wheelchairs – no contest!

If the International Paralympic Committee’s anti-doping code is about fair play and the classification system is meant to have athletes of equal ability competing against each other then the question of technological advantage between nations must be addressed.

The public fascination with the cyborgs of disability (technology body interface) and the ‘normalising’ of Paralympic bodies has been brought to the fore with Oscar Pistorius’ involvement with the Olympics. What will be interesting to observe is whether all Paralympic bodies and sports get an equality of media coverage.

This includes people with high support needs and the sports that they are engaged in. I just hope that the cerebral palsy athletes in Boccia get the coverage they deserve as much as the high profile sports such as amputee track, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby.

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