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
    shameful.

    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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