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Wikipedia will help create the most ‘visible’ Paralympics ever

Projects are underway to ensure the Paralympics doesn’t fade into the background. EPA/Joerge Carstensen

The 2012 Paralympic Games open in London tomorrow morning (AEST). These Games will build upon the successes of Sydney and Beijing in making visible the ability of outstanding athletes. And they are taking place at a time when there is a vast range of media that can be used to share performance.

Australia has sent a team to every Paralympic Games since the inaugural Games in 1960. Going into these Games, Australians have won 960 Summer Paralympic medals. There is every possibility that these Games will see the 1,000th medal awarded to an Australian athlete.

If you’re interested in watching the Games in Australia, the ABC will offer more than 100 hours of coverage. The Australian Paralympic Committee’s website and the official London 2012 website will stream the Games live as well.

But there is another very significant resource that’s making Paralympic performance more visible than ever before. These will be the first Paralympic games where information about each Australian Paralympian will be available on Wikipedia.

This information was created as part of an Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) project to use Wikipedia and social networking tools – as well as traditional historical research – to tell Australia’s Paralympic history online and in print.

The APC has made available through Wikimedia Commons much of its photograph collection of more than 35,000 images.

In an article for Wired, Brian Mossop wrote about the use of Wikipedia at the 2012 Olympic Games, pointing out that:

Despite being staffed entirely by an army of volunteers, Wikipedia — which is not, strictly speaking, a news site — is keeping pace with conventional media outlets.

Official results make their way to athletes’ Wikipedia pages within hours, sometimes minutes, of their finish. With dedicated editors working 24/7, Wikipedia pages are proving to be faster, leaner and more popular alternatives to traditional reporting.

This month there have been 180,000 visits to Australian Paralympians’ pages. In addition, 19 Wikinews articles have been viewed a total of 30,000 times. There will be an Australian Paralympic Wikinews reporter at the Games to build on the momentum created by the Olympics and mentioned by Brian Mossop.

An example of the visibility afforded by Wikipedia is the story about Greg Smith being announced as Australia’s flag-bearer for the Paralympics Opening Ceremony.

The first draft of a news item appeared at 10:53am on the day of the announcement and within eight hours there had been 19 edits of the story and the inclusion of a picture taken by Tony Naar, who was at the announcement. Naar’s photograph was uploaded to Wikimedia Commons within an hour of the event concluding.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the Wikipedia page of the Australian athlete that wins Australia’s 1,000th medal at the Summer Paralympics. Brian Mossop noted that during the London Olympics:

Olympic swimming dark horse Camille Muffat’s Wikipedia page was largely empty at the start of the Games. But after capturing gold in the women’s 400 freestyle in a race she wasn’t expected to win, her page quickly updated with her accomplishments, including the silver and bronze medals she secured in London.

An indication of the interest in Paralympian performance is exemplified by the appearance of an Australian Paralympic swimmer, Ellie Cole, on an ABC athlete pre-Games profile.

Ellie’s Wikipedia page (posted in 2009 and with 500 subsequent edits) received a spike in views immediately after the broadcast.

London 2012 was described by many as the social Olympics and the Paralympics is likely to follow in the same footsteps. The wikification of the Games (both Olympic and Paralympic) will add to the transparency of this trend and make the performances of remarkable Australians more available than ever before.

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