I'm just wondering what the perception of the recent Paralympics has been around the world? Here in the UK it's been an enormous event, on a par with the Olympics itself, and the likes of "Weirwolf" David Weir, Johnnie Peacock and Ellie Simmonds are as famous as Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis. It really seems like Paralympic sport has come of age - we have loved the Superhumans. But what about those of you in the US, Canada etc?
For those in the UK, great coverage on Channel 4 with the likes of Claire Balding and the enthusiastic Iwan Thomas. Anyone catch "The Last Leg" with Adam Hills? What a perfect programme to accompany the event!
At least from where I sit, I'd say it basically didn't exist in the U.S. consciousness.
Few times of the sporting year are far more frenzied on these shores than the first couple of weeks of September, as college and pro football kick off and baseball goes into the pennant-drive high gear.
Add in the U.S. Open this last week as well, and....
This morning's SF Chronicle was a 12-pager (sports section, that is). On the last page, in the digest, there was one "long" paragraph about Weir adding to his medals and giving a summation of the top 3-4 medal-winning nations overall.
If I hadn't noticed Pistorius's name in the fine print today, I would have missed the only (tiny) mention my paper had of it (his 400 win). The only other thing I know is that he lost the 100 and 200, which I'm sure I only read here.
I concur w gh. The greatest degree of exposure/attention I can think of -- such as it is/was -- would be a few commercials, e.g., BP & Coca-cola, which briefly picture/feature some Paralympians. But I don't know anyone who gives this form of athletic competition any attention at all. (By the way, not making any judgments here of any sort or in any direction -- just my impression of where this fits into USA's sports culture.)
Interesting to learn that it has much more attention in the UK, as Rog noted above. Add that to my now-gigantic list of things for which I can say, "I had no idea..."
Actually I've noticed for some time that the US doesn't tend to sit that high in the Paralympics medal table, but I'm still surprised that it's that obscure in the US. From what you have been posting about Lolo Jones it seems that the US media like a good backstory, and you don't get better backstories than the Paralympics.
The Paralympics has been massive here in the UK, and when I say that its stars are as big as the likes of Farah and Ennis, you'll get some idea of just how popular they are - for example, before the start of the 100 Jonnie Peacock had to motion to a packed stadium to stop chanting his name (he then stormed through to take gold and pandemonium broke out). At the athletes victory parade through London yesterday, the athletes of both the Olympic and Paralympic teams were treated as equals.
There was an article by Clare Balding recently where she really hit the crux of the matter. She said, and I paraphrase, that Olympic athletes, no matter how great, aren't doing anything that really matters, but Paralympians are - through sport they are conquering their disability. What the Paralympics showed is that they are producing exciting competition at a very high level. Paralympic sport was already pretty big here in the UK, but these Games have really raised the bar in terms of exposure both to sport and to issues with disability. That is a really great achievement.
What about the rest of the world? Our posters in Australia, Europe etc - what's the reaction been there?
I wouldn't say the Paralympics were all that tiny here, but they weren't remotely comparable to the Olympics. For starters, the Olympics got nearly-all-day live TV coverage on two channels while the Paralympics got less than an hour a day (with maybe two minutes of live action if you were lucky).
Finnish medallists were duly noted, but other than wheelchair champion Leo-Pekka Tähti (who won his third consecutive gold in a WR time) I doubt any of them have made much of a dent in public consciousness, and in his case it helps he's been around for a while and is regularly seen in "real" track meets up here. True, as far as the public is concerned his victories back in '04 were what got him started, so perhaps some of the other champions can build on this... but I wouldn't bet on it.
As for foreign heroes... I'd never heard of Peacock or Simmonds before reading that post by Rog. The only non-Finnish athlete really noted was Pistorius.
As somebody who coached a Paralympic gold medalist before it was fashionable as well as an able bodied athlete to OG, I have to say that this year, I had little interest in the OG and none in the following version. I am just getting less interested in sport in general and only follow athletics in fits and starts, nowadays. In Australia, the Paras were on the ABC, the national broadcaster, and only on their 2nd digital channel and I couldn't wait for it to finish so they could get back to repeats of Dr Who. Why? Because I hadn't seen them before and found them surprisingly sophisticated and emotional storylines, especially compared to the Pertwee/Baker Drs 30 years ago. Maybe in 30 years I will regain that interest in athletics and the subtleties of classification politics? Nahh, I'll be long dead.
It's pretty much the first time I've watched the Paralympics in their entirety because they normally start just as I go back to school (and the timezone in Beijing meant they'd all but finished by 4pm) and I thoroughly enjoyed them. The atmosphere in the Olympic stadium, velodrome and swimming pool was comparable to anything during the Olympics and I think the finish of the women's 4x100m medley relay was my favourite race of the entire Games. Anyone who didn't watch them definitely missed out. I think quite a lot of people (including myself, admittedly) have said we watch the Paralympics as well as the Olympics just to be politically correct and it's the fashionable thing to say but I was genuinely absorbed by them this year and I will continue to be.
I was initially dubious about the C4 coverage (and who could blame me after the World Champs last year!) because of the adverts and the density of studio chat but I actually found it an asset as I'm not hugely knowledgeable about Paralympic sports. I loved the evening combo of Clare Balding (made me laugh how The Times said it's illegal for anyone to dislike her) and Ade Adepitan and I also really enjoyed The Last Leg. The BBC could never pull off something like that. As much as I loved their coverage of the Olympics I don't think they would have done as great a job with the Paralympics because C4 have invested heavily in Paralympic sport for as long as I can remember and I think this experience showed.
One of my favourite moments of the Games was the three Brazilians dancing on the podium with their guides in the visually-impaired 100m. Along with Olivera, they have some genuine superstars in athletics and I really hope the momentum of the Paralympics continues in 2016.
Here's a link to a BBC article on the performances of various countries at the Paralympics, together with a description of the coverage each nation gave the event: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/disability-sport/19522887 - the US section pretty much backs up what the US posters have said.
My individual moment of the games - Richard Whitehead storming through in the 200, then giving an almighty double bicep pose in victory! Unforgettable race!
I was very disappointed in the local Paralympics coverage, especially on tv which amounted to a grand total of zero hours of live viewing. Our newspapers did a decent job, as we had three athletes competing. To their credit our newspapers also highlighted the fact that Jamaica was only allowed a total of three athletes to represent us; three others were not allowed (after traveling to London) apparently because of a quota system. That didn't sit well with me at all.
I avidly followed one athlete who competed; Alex Zanardi of Italy. I've been a fan of his for many years.
Last edited by toyracer on Tue Sep 11, 2012 3:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
What can I say? In Russia we can see a great increasing of interest and attention to the Paralympic sports in recent years. During Paralympics every day, in every news on the main TV channels they told about successes of our paralympians, on the federal sport channel (Россия 2) were many broadcasts (including live) of events, in which Russian paralympians competed and had medal chances (swimming, athletics, volleyball, football etc.). There were broadcasts about some of our paralympic athletes before Paralympic Games . Nothing like this have been before. In 10 recent years financing and sponsorship of the Russian Paralympic sport increased very much, and the results we see at the moment: 36 gold medals(18 in Beijing), 102 medals in total, and Russia have finished in 2nd place at the medal table, ahead of host country - Great Britain (compared with Olympic Games). Also 14 WR in swimming and athletics set by Russians. And we still have a big opportunity to improve amount of medals because of absence in our team wheelchair racers and runners in T43-44 categories (where Pistorius competes). The matter is that the wheelchairs and special prostheses are very expensive. Hope in Rio-2016 the situation will change. What about my own impressions, I wondered how many spectators were on the Olympic Stadium even on morning sessions. Full packed stadium at 10 o'clock!
Paralympic popularity probably spikes whenever it follows on the heels of the Olympics in the Olympics host country. The Olympics are a great lead in. The nation is still in Olympic mode, media and public are primed to focus on special athletes they otherwise don't see every day in the box scores and stat sheets. It would be interesting to see how many media mentions the event gets in the UK in four years compared to now.
toyracer wrote:I was very disappointed in the local Paralympics coverage, especially on tv which amounted to a grand total of zero hours of live viewing. Our newspapers did a decent job, as we had three athletes competing. To their credit our newspapers also highlighted the fact that Jamaica was only allowed a total of three athletes to represent us; three others were not allowed (after traveling to London) apparently because of a quota system. That didn't sit well with me at all.
That was rubbish, wasn't it? This quota system is very Machiavellian, because Croatia and New Zealand have similar populations to Jamaica, and they both had over 20 athletes....
Here in the UK, the coverage of the Paralympics has been huge. HOwever, IIRC, four years ago in Beijing, the Paralympics received TV coverage from Beijing, but there was very little mention of it in the sports pages, except filed away somewhere around the second half in a paragraph here or there.
I believe the coverage of the Paralympics was only good in the UK because they were in London. Come Rio in four years time, I expect the Paralympics news coverage to decline to what it was at Beijing....