The Paralympic games exist to give fearless people who live strenuous lives a chance to show the world how extraordinary they truly are. India competed against 134 other countries, who sent their most talented and dominant athletes, and placed 24th in the Toyo Paralympics 2020.
There is acute competition in para-sports in India, and it is set to become more demanding. As the fire becomes a roaring blaze, we, the spectators, have every opportunity to realize that there is no walk in the park for these flag bearers and that respect is long overdue.
Para Sports in India- Turning the Tide
Firstly, progress has been made and many achievements were clinched by India at the Paralympics. India has set the norm along with the US in compensating champions in both the Olympics and Paralympics equally. India outperforms the United States in prize money as our bronze medalists get more prize money than US gold medalists. Neither London 2012 nor Rio 2016 could compete with Tokyo Paralympics ratings as 14 million viewers made it the highest-watched Paralympics in history.
Once the Olympic torch dies off, so does the media attention. The Paralympic games are held with the idea to create conditions for athlete empowerment through self-determination – in so doing, making a “contribution to a better world for all people with a disability”. But the public has a short memory and once the press coverage wears off, the struggle rumbles on till the next display.
Participation and public support are invaluable towards awakening financial potential in any sport and television coverage plays a key role in motivating aspiring sports persons. With the popularity of the internet, Para sports is at a pivotal point as interesting content at any scale can be made commercial. Public appearances, media interactions, and social media presence generated benefits such as bringing sponsors, top-level professionals, and funds for sporting facilities. The IPL, Pro Kabaddi, and other successful franchises have leveraged digital marketing and engaged with fans all through the year, which helps create and maintain a wider audience.
Deserving of the spotlight
The obstacles faced by para-athletes in India are attitudes and economic constraints. Spectatorship of Para-sports needs a branding change from a political movement masquerading as a sports event, to a battle royale of non-traditional competitors. Each is equally determined and skilled as their able-bodied counterparts.
Sumit Antil’s 68.95m javelin throw is as impressive as Neeraj Chopra’s 87.58m javelin throw in Tokyo Olympics but Antil received only a fraction of the fanfare. Brands are reluctant to sponsor because of the low viewership.
The fact of the matter is that most of the promotion is towards the Olympic
Games, which leads to higher enthusiasm and eyeballs for it. While Sony covered the Tokyo Olympics and gets 88 million viewers, the Tokyo Paralympics was sidelined with broadcasting rights sold to Eurosport, which is yet to build a base in India. This has denied financial opportunities and recognition for our para-athletes who have given a championship effort.
The mere fact that a para-athlete by the name of Praveen Kumar won the gold in the Junior National Championships, after battling against 16 able-bodied athletes. This should tell you about the potential of para-sport to bring about unparalleled change.-- Advertisement --