Paralympics have the power to transform attitudes to disability
'Superhuman' Paralympic competitors have achieved even more than Olympians
THE SECOND installment of London 2012 gets underway tonight with the Paralympic opening ceremony at a sold out Olympic stadium. The lavish spectacle is expected to give the event a kick-start. But the 2012 Games are already being heralded as the most-watched Paralympics ever and hopes are high that the event will have a lasting impact on attitudes towards disability.
Spectators, who have already bought 2.4 million tickets, will be crucial says The Daily Telegraph: "The embrace of the British public, so evident in the triumphant staging of the Olympic Games, will, say organisers, validate the Paralympics as a top-flight sporting event in its own right, as well as offering a chance to transform attitudes to disability in the UK."
The most famous disabled athlete in the world, South African 'blade-runner' Oscar Pistorius, believes that Britain's "amazing" attitude towards disability will have a global effect.
"There are a lot of people that are going to watch these Games around the world that are going to be forced in a way to see these Paralympics through the eyes of the people of the UK. And I think that is a great thing," he told The Guardian. "There are a lot of people here that don't focus on the disability any more, they focus on the athletes' ability."
And the outstanding efforts of those taking part in the Games has been the focus in many quarters. Broadcaster Channel 4 has dubbed Paralympians the "superhumans" and The Times notes that while Olympic competitors "showed what elite but essentially normal bodies are capable of, the Paralympians have had to achieve twice as much".
There is, says the paper, "a shared hinterland of practical and emotional despair, above which every Paralympian has risen". But that is just the start: "The ability to defeat a screwed-up body gets the athletes merely to first base. Now comes the second great task, the years of dedication, self-sacrifice and sweat that will qualify them to perform on this particular international stage."
And, as The Guardian reports, it may not be long before some Paralympians are outperforming their able-bodied counterparts thanks to developments in prosthetics.
It notes that the once-controversial blades used by Pistorius were first manufactered in 1996 and since then newer models have been developed with specific sports in mind. There are now sets for running bends, running straight and for the long jump.
The International Paralympic Committee must ratify each advance to ensure that "human performance is the critical endeavour not the impact of technology and equipment". But the paper says that in the future it could be a "hard line to draw".
"Advances in prosthetic limb technology have been accelerated by the research and development done to improve the lives of amputees returning from Afghanistan and Iraq," notes the paper.