Thursday, August 30, 2012

Consider contributions Paralympians make to Olympic mission

For most Americans, the ongoing Paralympics is an afterthought – especially considering the scant media attention it receives here.  (To follow coverage, refer to this earlier blog post by my colleague Dunja Antunovic.)

Sports performed by those in wheelchairs or perhaps missing a limb are not broadcast on television or widely covered by the print media.
The Jerusalem Post had a great editorial extolling the virtues of the Paralympics. The article voiced a hope that more resources would be steered toward young people who are not able to play sports conventionally.

As mentioned in an earlier post, money for youth sports is becoming more and more difficult to find. Therefore I do not posit a guess on whether there will actually be any movement toward increasing access of sports to more young people.

What I will say is that the Paralympics fulfill the Olympic mission. It is easy to forget the mission when discussing doping scandals, huge sums of money paid for broadcast rights and wealthy professional athletes treating the Games as secondary to the professional careers. Consider the second principle of Olympism: The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.

The last few words “preservation of human dignity” are especially powerful. People such as Jesse Owens, John Carlos and Tommy Smith readily come to mind when thinking about those words.

However, we should not discount the contributions of all Paralympians – past and present – in that endeavor as well. The feats that will be performed in the coming days will show that Paralympians are truly authentic athletes.

-- Steve Bien-Aimé

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