HomeSports 2.0KreedOn Case StudyParalympic Sports: Examining challenges, successes and impact on athletes with disabilities
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Paralympic Sports: Examining challenges, successes and impact on athletes with disabilities

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In 2018, Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, achieved a remarkable milestone by selling a record-breaking 320,000 tickets. It amounts to about 90% of all available tickets for the 12th Winter Paralympics. What makes this particularly fascinating is the increasing popularity of the Paralympic Games in recent years. For instance, the 2014 Sochi Games saw the sale of 316,200 tickets, doubling the number sold during the 2006 Torino Games, which stood at 162,974 tickets.

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Andrew Parsons, the President of the International Paralympic Committee, expressed his enthusiasm, stating, It is fantastic news that Pyeongchang 2018 has now sold a record number of tickets for the Paralympic Winter Games.”

Interest in the Paralympic Games appears to be on the rise. Yet, each year, there has been a noticeable turnaround, with ticket sales initially moving slowly. A noteworthy example is the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games, where a successful the #FillTheSeats campaign was launched after stadiums remained empty during the initial events. This campaign involved ticket price reductions and efforts to enhance accessibility to the general public, ultimately leading to the Rio Games having the second-largest Paralympic attendance after the 2012 London Summer Games (where the summer edition generally sells more tickets than the Winter Paralympics).

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What contributes to the challenge of filling seats at the Paralympics? 

Paralympic Event | KreedOn
Image Source: Paralympic Stories
  • One contributing factor is the complexity of the Paralympic Games. Depending on the event, athletes fall into categories such as wheelchair, amputee, cerebral palsy, visually impaired, athletes with intellectual disabilities, and “les autres” (those with other disabilities). For some spectators, this complexity can be less straightforward compared to watching a game that involves only wheelchair athletes, as they are required to follow a wide range of disabilities.
  • Another reason could be the historical lack of representation, especially in the Winter Paralympics. These games have traditionally been centered around Western countries, predominantly focusing on European and North American athletes. This trend was partially mirrored in the summer games, favoring countries that offered more opportunities for people with disabilities to engage in sports. However, recent years have seen a broader representation of countries in the games, making them more inclusive and appealing to a wider audience.

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  • A significant contributing factor is the insufficient media coverage of the Paralympics. While progress has been made since the inaugural games in 1960, there is still a considerable distance to cover. Despite achieving relative success in ticket sales, the Rio Paralympics received less than ten percent of the television coverage that the Olympics received, even though the Paralympics spanned more days. In some countries, such as India, there was a complete absence of television coverage.
  • The 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Paralympics has demonstrated success, suggesting a positive trend. Society is beginning to recognize the Paralympics as the action-packed sports event it is. However, this trajectory may enhance with the increase in quantity and quality of global media coverage.
  • Accessibility and Inclusivity: Access to proper facilities, equipment, and coaching can be limited for athletes with disabilities. This can make it challenging for them to participate and excel in Paralympic sports.
  • Stigma and Stereotypes: Many people still hold misconceptions and stereotypes about individuals with disabilities. This can create barriers for athletes in terms of societal acceptance and support.
  • Funding and Sponsorship: Paralympic sports often receive less funding and sponsorship compared to their Olympic counterparts. This can limit resources and opportunities for athletes with disabilities.

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Impact of Paralympic sports on athletes with disabilities

Paralympic Event | KreedOn
Image Source: Pinterest
  • Empowerment and Confidence: Paralympic sports empower athletes with disabilities by providing them with a platform to showcase their skills and abilities. This, in turn, boosts their self-confidence and self-esteem, allowing them to embrace their identities as athletes.
  • Physical Well-being: Participation in Paralympic sports contributes to the physical well-being of athletes. It promotes fitness, strength, and overall health, which can be particularly important for individuals with disabilities who may face additional physical challenges.
  • Emotional Well-being: Engaging in sports can have a positive impact on the emotional well-being of athletes. It provides a sense of purpose, reduces stress, and fosters a sense of accomplishment, leading to greater emotional resilience.

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  • Social Inclusion: Paralympic sports create opportunities for athletes with disabilities to connect with others who share similar experiences. This sense of community and belonging can combat feelings of isolation and promote social inclusion.
  • Inspiration and Role Modeling: Paralympic athletes serve as inspirational figures for individuals with disabilities. They showcase what can be achieved with determination and hard work. They become role models for others, motivating them to pursue their goals and aspirations.
  • Advocacy and Awareness: Many Paralympic athletes become advocates for disability rights and awareness. They use their platform to challenge stereotypes, promote inclusivity, and advocate for equal opportunities in sports and society at large.
  • Changing Perceptions: The success of Paralympic athletes has contributed to changing societal perceptions of people with disabilities. They are increasingly seen as individuals capable of extraordinary achievements, challenging preconceived notions and fostering a more inclusive society.
  • Integration and Equal Opportunities: Paralympic sports have played a pivotal role in pushing for greater integration and equal opportunities for para-athletes within the sports community. This has led to more adaptive equipment, accessible facilities, and inclusive policies.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Paralympic sports have navigated a remarkable journey of challenges and successes, leaving a profound impact on athletes with disabilities. The challenges, from limited accessibility and stereotypes to inadequate funding and media coverage, have been met with unwavering determination. Despite these obstacles, the successes are evident in the growing participation, improved facilities, shifting perceptions, and the broader advocacy for inclusivity.

The impact on athletes with disabilities is immeasurable. They find empowerment, confidence, and enhanced physical and emotional well-being through their sporting pursuits. Paralympic sports provide a sense of belonging and community, combating social isolation and raising a spirit of unity among athletes. These athletes serve as powerful role models, inspiring others to reach for their dreams and challenging stereotypes in the process.

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Moreover, Paralympic sports have contributed significantly to advocating for disability rights and awareness, instigating change in how society views and integrates individuals with disabilities. Their successes are not only medals but milestones in the broader journey towards a more inclusive and accepting world. As Paralympic sports continue to evolve and gain momentum, their positive impact will only grow, further solidifying their place as a testament to the indomitable spirit of athletes with disabilities.


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