Saturday, 13 September 2008

The "Paralympics". This has to be said ...

No one else has the guts, so I will say it: the Paralympics are a grotesque and patronising freak show.

I can just about understand the wheelchair races, they are no more absurd than someone throwing himself down a steep ice channel on a tea tray in the Winter Olympics. It takes physical strength and skill to wheel a sawn-off supermarket trolley while sitting in it, so I'll give them that one, that is a fair sport. What is not fair is that the competition is only open to those with no, stunted, withered, deformed or otherwise seriously defective legs. If they really are supreme athletes, let them prove it in open competition. They need have nothing to fear, after all most of the competitors have an advantage over the able bodied in that such legs as they may have are considerably lighter than those of someone who can walk. If they always win we will know the absence of pins gives an unfair advantage and we can introduce weight categories or handicapping with lead weights. If they do not win despite their apparent advantage, we will see that they are not top athletes after all.

As for the other sports, most are just an excuse for do-gooders to look on and say "didn't he do well, it's wonderful what he can do when he tries, bless his heart." To watch sufferers of Downs Syndrome racing on a track or in water is no different from gawking at the deformed in a Victorian side show, it is disgusting, patronising voyeurism.

Then we have blind runners. The more astute reader will identify the principal difficulty for a blind runner on an oval track, but the organisers of this absurdity are not stupid, they have thought of that. Blind runners go round strapped by the wrist to an able-bodied athlete charged with preventing collisions and keeping their competitor on the track. By definition this requires the able-bodied companion to be at least as fast a runner as his charge. In what sense is it an achievement worthy of an Olympic gold medal to run no faster than than someone you are attached to by a cord and substantially slower than most who were eliminated in the first heat of the same event in the real Olympics?

Most absurd of all is that it is called elite sport. These are, no doubt, the best limbless, sightless and mentally defective participants but that has nothing to do with elite sport. Elite sport is about absolute achievements, being the fastest on the day over 400 metres, throwing the javelin the furthest, riding a horse over high obstacles with fewest errors and so on. You can be a bit dim and still run fast, as is proved when most of our athletes give interviews, but it does not matter whether you are Einstein's lost identical twin or a complete retard, what matters is that in open competition you proved yourself to be the fastest or strongest. That is the measure. No if ands or buts, did you beat everyone else? If you are missing a leg you are not going to be the fastest or even in the top thousand fastest and, therefore, you are not an elite sportsman.

I enjoy playing golf but such is my limited skill that a score in the low nineties on a par seventy is an achievement for me. We don't see the PGA laying on special major tournaments for those missing the essential ingredients required to be a great player. What we do see is golf clubs all over the world welcoming me and my fellow hackers because we enjoy playing and are prepared to pay to do so. It is a recreational activity because we do not have what it takes to be the best. We also see sports clubs welcoming those with physical or mental handicaps for exactly the same reason. Lacking a limb or a large chunk of normal brainpower is no different from not having the physical coordination or the ability to concentrate required to be a top sportsman. By all means take part, enter competitions if you wish and enjoy it, but don't try to kid us into thinking it is real high-level sport. It is not. It is an excuse for the professionally sanctimonious to wallow in a pool of their own smugness and say how well they are treating the mongs and the cripples. A grotesque and patronising freak show.

11 comments:

neil craig said...

Monty Python did a sketch nearly 40 years ago - the hundred meters for the deaf. The starting gun is fired and...

Obviously they couldn't do that nowadays.

Anonymous said...

Mr Bigot,

"If you are missing a leg you are not going to be the fastest or even in the top thousand fastest and, therefore, you are not an elite sportsman"

Maybe not among the able bodied. But to run, throw the javelin, swim or participate in sport of ANY kind is an absolute TRIUMPH for those less advantaged than your good self, a mark of a determination to succeed despite all the odds.
The words 'Faster, Higher,Stronger' were never felt more keenly nor aspired to so fiercely as they are by the disabled athlete.
That you discribe the paralympics as a "freak show" suggests to me that you are not only enitrely uncomfortable with the idea of the disabled athlete, you are also uncomortable with disability in general ( please dont begin your response to this post with "some of my best friends are disabled" or " I know many many disabled people", since this would merely demonstrate ignorance and bigotry of the highest order) To this end, I suggest you take the log out of your own eye before you remove the comparitive splinter from everyone else's.

I do wonder what your opinion may be of the disabled sprinter Oscar Pistorious, banned from participating in the able bodied olympics because his artifical legs were deemed to give him an unfair advantage?!

Seems to me disabled athletes will never be respected for their determination, their desire to circumvent their problems, no matter how had they try.
And that is an absolute tragedy.

TheFatBigot said...

Indeed it is a triumph for someone with a disability to overcome that obstacle and take part in sport, just as it is a triumph when someone of my limited physical coordination scores a birdie at golf. But it is not top level sport and should not be dressed up as such.

And you are right, Mr Nous, I am not comfortable with disability. Fortunately the law does not (yet) require me to be so.

Old Holborn said...

he he he

Anonymous said...

With respect to "top level sport "perhaps you should indulge in a race with Mr Pistorious. Perhaps you would learn a few lessons, though I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

I AGREE with a lot of the article. Some of it is a sideshow or even a freak show. However it is also wonderful that the less able bodied or mentally deficient can aspire to achieve at the Paralympic Games.
As a footnote and some food for thought - I wonder if any paralympians dare try to cheat by taking banned substances .. now that would be ironic ...

James said...

I agree with the sentiments of this article. I have yet to be desensitised to deformity and am therefore not going to watch this (ironically watching it might be my "cure"). What next, dog shows for 3-legged mutts? Although what I will say is, as long as the event is organised on the basis of genuine interest and not sucking up to pressure groups, then let them be. Otherwise that is just patronising and hypocritical.

LonelyQuail said...

Well said. In the light of the "most successful paralympics yet", certainly so.

I think people should understand that Olympics and Paralympics is something that political powers are organising for them every 4 years, to keep the stakes high and everyone (?) happy. Mostly for our own money, by the way. London 2012 Olympics came at a price of about 10 million pounds per athlete. Is that anyhow comparable to what is spent for education, arts, health care? Well, you could argue, that would not "inspire a generation".

Paralympics is, of course, a shameful scam to get an indulgence for the all-commercial tint of the Games. If the distance between an ordinary youngster and the olympic medal winner is like that from Sun to Earth, the distance between an ordinary disabled person and the paralympics athlete is measured in light-years. Not to mention some doping factors to complicate this further but let's not spoil it more than it already is.

Anonymous said...

"I do wonder what your opinion may be of the disabled sprinter Oscar Pistorious, banned from participating in the able bodied olympics because his artifical legs were deemed to give him an unfair advantage?!"
This is the whole point. You are trying to compare apples with oranges. Surely at this stage its a competition between the prosthetic limb manufacturers?

Arjuna Krishna-Das said...

Yup, it has to be said. Sport for all indeed, but the paralympics is absurd.

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