Sunday 9 September 2012

London 2012: The greatest Paralympic Games ever

I've just finished watching the closing ceremony of this year's Paralympics. There's no doubt this has been the biggest and greatest Paralympics anyone has ever seen.

What I've liked about the Paralympics is that it stands alone on its own merits as a competition. It's not an inferior or second rate version of the Olympics. It's separate with its own standards and doesn't need to be judged against those of able bodied athletes.

After the euphoria of the Olympics I wanted to make an effort to watch the

To begin with I found some it challenging to watch. I felt a little uncomfortable watching swimmers with no arms or cyclists with one only one leg competing.

I didn't want to feel like I was watching a 'freakshow' or watch with a sense of sympathy. At the end of the day they're athletes who have a desire to perform and compete to the best of their abilities.

Thankfully this feeling soon passed. After a while I accepted I was just a sports fan watching sport. Disability wasn't the issue.

Wheelchair basketball was just basketball with players in wheelchairs. Sprinters running on blades where just sprinters running on blades - the disability didn't really matter. It was sport, competition with athletes just getting on with it.

What I'm really proud of is the support that the British public has given to the Paralympics. I can't imagine there's been a Games with bigger attendance figures.

So looking back at the last week and a half what if anything has the Paralympics taught us?

There are all sorts of variations and differences to what we accept as the norm of physical appearance.

We know that human beings come in all shapes and sizes but the Paralympics has taken that idea on just a little bit further.

It's naive to think that a few weeks of sport are going to transform the lives of millions of ordinary people with disabilities, but hopefully as a society we can now have a more positive image of disability and not view it as a barrier or obstacle preventing people from living successful and fulfilling lives.

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