Are the Olympics Ableist?
When we have a problem we must look for a solution. I have been thinking about all the various factors and how we could and should from my point of view make the Games more accessible and inclusive. As mentioned in my previous article the questions that for me surround this ethical matter are, would it be ok to have a Games based on any protected characteristics? Would that be acceptable? I received a few comments talking about performance and another one talking about the opposite, also mentioning the Commonwealth Games as a reference to enhance the factor of community and the social impact that sport has. I personally think that ‘the Games’ should be for the top athletes, in all categories in the world.
When I was referring to merging the Olympic and Paralympics to merge I wasn’t intending to put an abled person to compete against a disabled one. It wouldn’t be fair, and not probably would be fun to watch, there has a different perspective, each one should play their best against someone at the same level. As a tennis player, I would say we won’t put Federer to play against Serena. However, you can go to watch both of them. Isn’t it great? The old times when sports were only for men have gone, although there is still much work to do, and I hope in the near future we could say the same about disability.
Let’s come back to the level aspect first when you go to watch a women match you are not expecting it to watchmen? You know what to expect, and you go for it. Is healthy to see all genders; it is healthy to see representation. So why to leave out all these amazing experiences for our kids and for ourselves I risk say, to see and learn from other capabilities and differences.
During the London Games, it was one of the things I heard the most about the Paralympics was how impressed the kids were to be able to see the para-athlete and how they could do the same thing in different ways. How can you swim with you don’t have arms, how can you run if you don’t have legs, etc. For me more than anything it could be a massive learning process for our human existence with no judgments and respecting the differences between many more things.
As we all know the events occur in the same venues. how many athletes we have at the Olympics? Shall we say around 10,000, and how many do we have at the Paralympics? Shall we say 4,000? So we know that logistically talking it would be possible to have 20.000 athletes in 60 days. What if we split the games along different lines? For the sake of this discussion ball sports & non-ball sports. This wouldn’t work but the intent is to get you thinking that ‘the Games’ could be spilled along lines other than non-disabled/disabled. The ‘Games’ could have one Opening Ceremony & one Closing Ceremony and the cost of rebounding between the two Games would be reduced. Also instead of having to manage 10.000 people at once, it would be easier to have 7.000 people twice, possibly giving space to grow the number of athletes and have for example 8.000 twice.
Many sports are not included in the Paralympic Games. Looking at ‘the Games’ differently may allow the inclusion of more Paralympic sports rather than less. A more inclusive approach is more reflective of modern society and hopefully where we are heading. Linked to this I would like to see a review of the IPC Classification Code to ensure that sports are inclusive and embrace everybody who can’t compete in the non-disabled equivalent.
Win win win – potentially more sports, more players, and inclusion. Sure, there may be other solutions to this situation but these are my thoughts. The question is do we want solutions or is it easier to be in the comfort zone and not change anything even feeling its not the right thing? I would love to know your thoughts on how you see the Games now and where you see them going in the future? The Games are a great platform to unite the world and maybe that is more important than commercial considerations and medal tallies.
By Samanta Bullock