Paralympics. It’s all about the biceps.
I am also pleased that the media has picked up on the fact that disabled people are furious that one of the sponsors of the Paralympics is the controversial work capability assessment company Atos. Not since the day the Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to award the peace price to Henry Kissinger has there been such an ironic relationship between something so good and something so downright iffy.
Understandably, there will be protests about this issue. But I hope that I can be forgiven for taking a more irreverent look at the Paralympics for a moment, for there is still much to look forward to.
For some people, the Paralympics is all about the B word – Bravery. (‘Disabled people excelling at sport – aren’t they brave! Disabled people cheating at sport – aren’t they brave!’). But for me, it’s about a more important B word – Biceps. I feel no shame in admitting that most of my time watching the games will be spent eyeing up the male wheelchair athletes, who, due to their incredible upper body strength, have the most admirable biceps in the world. Don’t believe me? Google David Weir.
Over the next couple of weeks there will be lots of media coverage about the Paralympics, but I hope it doesn’t focus too much on the athletes’ impairments. Personally, I’m not that interested in what their impairments are, how they got them or how it impacts on their lives. I just want to watch our team beat the crap out of the other teams and annoy the Royal Mail by winning loads of gold medals.
There may even be articles questioning whether the Paralympics gives an unrealistic representation of disability. My view is this: who cares?! I’ve seen plenty of non-disabled men with beer bellies and bulging butt cracks, whose main recreation is belching, but I didn’t watch the Olympics on the telly and shout ‘Oi you Bradley Wiggins! Your sexy skinny mod bod, sportsmanship and talent at riding a bike really fast whilst making sideburns cool again makes you an unrealistic representation of non-disabled men!’
Likewise, I will admit that I’m very unfit, I need to lose weight and my collection of slimming magazines could insulate a loft. But I’m not going to watch the Paralympics shouting ‘Oi you Ellie Simmonds! Your athleticism, strength, gracefulness in the water and ability to swim really, fast makes you an unrealistic representation of disabled women!’ That would make me a (ahem) spoilsport.
For me, the Paralympics should be fun, entertaining and a celebration of disabled people’s strength and grit.
I love Channel 4’s advert for the Paralympics where the camera pans from the Olympic closing ceremony and goes under a tunnel at the stadium to reveal a group of disabled athletes looking like they’re about to mug you. It’s mean and moody, and also unsettling because it (unintentionally) represents how I feel about the way disabled people were mostly left out of the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies.
Take the closing ceremony for example. I watched at home for over two hours in the hope there might be some disabled performers, especially after deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie’s magnificent performance in the opening Ceremony. And what did we get? George Michael dancing. Supermodels walking. The Spice Girls pretending to like each other. A tribute to Queen that united the nation in wishing Freddie Mercury wasn’t dead. And the only disabled/deaf performance was from a children’s signing choir. (I’m not knocking them, they were excellent. But they were not exactly rock and roll.) I’m assuming this is because the crème de la crème of disabled and deaf talent has been saved up for the Paralympic ceremonies. But unless Professor Stephen Hawking parachutes into the Olympic Stadium and then does a tribute to Ian Dury, I’m going to feel a little disappointed.Tagged in: Atos, channel 4, disability, olympics, Paralympic protest, paralympics
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