Of course when we said goodbye to Beijing at the closing of the Olympic Games, last week, it wasn’t really goodbye. Next week, the Paralympics start.
I expect there to be a fair amount of coverage and will follow with interest – just as I discovered a previously dormant interest in Synchronised High Board Diving during the last few weeks, so I expect to uncover an unknown interest in Boccia during the next few weeks.
People with learning disabilities were first barred after the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney when it was discovered that members of the Spanish basketball team had falsely claimed to have a learning disability. Thousands of pounds of lottery funding for athletes in the UK has since been lost.
I worked for a few years, prior to qualifying as a social worker, with people with learning disabilities and we attended some of the sports events. Sport has the potential to bring an enormous amount of joy. We have seen that over the past few weeks. The article goes on to add that
The International Sports Federation for Persons with an Intellectual Disability was responsible for monitoring eligibility of athletes for the Paralympics before being suspended in 2001. The IPC (International Paralympic Council) said that the verification process had been “grossly mismanaged” and that fair competition could not be ensured until the organisation got its act together.
Is there such a lack of public spirited and fair minded people in the world that these committees have to serve only themselves and not the people whom they are tasked to serve. I imagine the composition of the said committee has changed since it was accused of gross mismanagement in the process of establishing eligibility. I can only hope they are also in the process of ‘getting their act together’.
I know that cheating is an issue but to disallow all learning disabled athletes from the Paralympics seems a little more than heavy-handed. Eligibility can be a delicate matter but surely the purpose of competing is more important than actually winning. Maybe I’m just an old-fashioned gal who never made it out of the school second XI hockey team (actually no, I made it into the first team once, as a second reserve but I never actually got into the pitch!) but enjoyed playing all the same!
Cheating has been associated with Olympic sport for many years – it is not a new thing – unfortunately – but because the publicity and sponsorship and pride are all involved, some people will do anything.
But disallowing all those who use the positive nature of sport.. it is taking a lot of potential joy away from an otherwise fine event.
A decision will be made following the Paralympic Games in Beijing as to whether the learning disabled athletes are re-admitted in time for London 2012. I personally feel it would be an injustice if they are not.
We’ve missed their presence and the Olympic movement is poorer as a result.