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disabled persons

The Paralympic Games in Rio: Where the (dis)abilities matter

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

“I savor life. When you have anything that threatens life... it prods you into stepping back and really appreciating the value of life and taking from it what you can.”
- Sonia Sotomayor
 
On the evening after the closing ceremony of the XXXI Summer Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, my mind was still immersed in the scene of several thousand perfectly chiseled bodies. I couldn’t emotionally adjust to the “normal pace of life” knowing that I would have to patiently wait for almost three weeks for the next thrilling global sporting festival, when the 15th Summer Paralympic Games will begin once again in Rio. To compensate for my anxious state of mind, I decided to watch ESPN to obtain a mini-dose of sport emotions. I got more than I bargained for. As soon as I turned on the TV, I became engrossed by a short but very captivating documentary entitled: Owen and Haatchi. From the get-go the story made a huge impression on me and served as a humbling precursor and transition to my next sporting festival where Paralympians will be competing in 22 sports and 528 events. 
 
Between September 7th and the 18th, 4,350 athletes with disabilities from 161 countries will share 4,350 compelling and inspiring stories of triumph. As they put the Paralympic spirit into motion to achieve sporting excellence, it will be our blessing to reflect not on their disabilities, but on their abilities and on the joy they have to represent their nations in the best possible way. Sport is a fair equalizer for all athletes; it doesn’t matter if you come from an affluent or developing country, every athlete still has to show up, participate, and finish the competition. The medal classification for the last Paralympics in London was not a mirror reflection of the Olympics. Instead, the para-athletes representing the nations of the emerging economies and developing countries could hold their own quite well.