No, it’s not the 2012 games just yet, but you can already feel the hype building. Within minutes of turning on a television set we’re presented with some reference to the London Olympiad and as the months fly by you can expect nothing more than for the anticipation to rise… even if you didn’t get to buy any tickets!
One thing that struck me in all of the excitement is the increasingly visible profile of our disabled athletes. I’ve been photographing disability sport for a good few years now and have noticed this rise in media presence at some of the events I’ve attended. In addition to winning the contract to cover the 2012 Paralympics games, Channel 4 have already screened programmes like ‘That Paralympic Show and ‘Inside Incredible Athletes’.
Having a mainstream broadcaster ready to air 150 hours of coverage during the 12 days of competition raises the Paralympics from ‘niche’ to that of a major sporting event.
Advertisers seem to have taken this on board too. Those carbon fibre bladed legs as worn by Oscar Pretorius seem to flash across our screens at every opportunity. Even if the slightly cynical side of me strays into thinking companies like BP want to be seen as inclusive in their advertising so they can portray themselves as being more socially conscious, I still see the trend as being a positive one.
As someone who has worked with people with disabilities in education for 10 years now I think anything that can raise awareness and break down those barriers is a positive move. A prosthetist i’ve been filming with recently told me that many of the young athletes he has worked with are proud to show off their prosthetic legs where once they used to try to hide them away.
So back to the title of this post ‘Beyond 2012′. Myself and fellow Statement member James Dodd recently spent a weekend filming with junior disabled athletes for Disability Sport Events, the English Federation of Disability Sport and their sponsors Nationwide. The video at the top of this post is just a brief snippet from that event.
Inspired by gold medallists such as Ellie Simmonds and Sam Hynd at the Beijing Paralympics all of the young athletes we filmed with are eagerly looking at 2012 and beyond to the 2016 games in Rio. And judging by their enthusiasm I sincerely expect they’ll make it.
Yet in a sporting environment where sponsorship is vital to be able to organise and run events, and indeed compete in them, I can only hope the legacy of supporting disabled sport in Britain continues past London’s brief window of opportunity next summer, so that our future Paralympic hopefuls get the best chance possible.
As one young athlete said to me “we should get to do what ambulant athletes do, there’s no difference between us”. Which is a fair point, and with that I feel I should go back through this article and edit all of the times I’ve written ‘disabled athlete’ to just leave the word ‘athlete’.