The Simon Heng column

Like many people, I’ve become fascinated with the Olympics. For the
first time in my life, I’ve not been so interested in the
competition for medals as I have with the focus, dedication and
sheer physical achievement of the participants, and with the stress
most of the athletes place on teamwork.

There is something riveting, even beautiful at times, about
watching people who have honed their bodies to perform so well in
their chosen sport. Which is why I think that the Paralympics are
so important.

Certainly, athletes taking part in the Paralympics have needed as
much focus, dedication and honing as their non-disabled
counterparts (although some disabled people do take part in the
main event – one of the British archers is, apparently, blind in
one eye). Performances can be just as compelling and beautiful to
watch. The special thing about Paralympians is that they are
competing on their own terms, making the most of their physicality.
They are just as dedicated and exceed expectations in the same way
as anyone.

In linking the Paralympics to every Olympic Games, the organising
committees have achieved something else as well. The host city has
to focus on providing or enhancing accessible facilities for the
athletes, and generate interest and awareness among the population
so that there are spectators. Sydney 2000 managed this
fantastically, with high attendances for Paralympic sports
(although I understand that the Australians are so sports mad that
they’d watch two kids kicking a ball against a wall if they thought
it was a competition).

I am acutely aware that attitudes towards disabled people in the UK
are often unrealistic: any achievement is labelled by the media as
heroic or a “fight against” something. In other parts the world,
disabled people are still seen as an irrelevance, a burden, even

These games must enhance the way that disabled people are viewed in
the host country and around the world as more of the Paralympics is
televised, which can only be a good thing.

Higher, faster, stronger, as they say.

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