One of the most compelling and overlooked sports stories this year is the success of the 2012 London Paralympics. These games had a positive impact on The Paralympic Movement. This story was largely ignored or overlooked by media in the United States. IPC President Sir Philip Craven hailed “London 2012” as the greatest Paralympics games ever as they truly changed the perceptions of people with an impairment. The British public embraced these athletes for what they can do rather than what they couldn’t do. For the first time in Paralympic history the legacy left was sport.
The numbers are impressive:
- 4,237 athletes
- 150 Hours of Live Coverage by UK Channel 4
- 2,720,000 spectators
- 1.9M visitors to Paralympics.org
- 85% of British Adults now feel Paralympians are people to aspire to
Enlightened sponsors such as UK Retailer Sainsburys helped make this event a success. More importantly 70,000 passionate volunteers made this event happen.
The IPC’s purpose is ‘To enable Paralympic athletes to achieve sporting excellence and inspire and excite the world’.
Personally I missed this story. My sports attention was focused on the Summer Games, Yankees Baseball and the upcoming NFL season. A couple of weeks ago I had coffee with a friend of mine who was a spectator at the 2012 Paralympic Games. He had fond memories from his experience. I then did research and learned about the positive change that had happened.
U.S. Paralympians are starting to come of age, but more needs to be done. There is an opportunity to take this movement even further so that the next generation can push the boundaries. The message is a simple one: a disability need not disable. While there are more than 21 million individuals living with a disability in the U.S., only one in ten takes part in fitness activities on a daily basis. That needs to change.
The United States risks being left behind unless it begins to develop the sport and change perceptions of people overall.
What can be done to build the Paralympic movement in the United States?