The London 2012 Paralympics have gained more media coverage than any Paralympic Games beforehand, making them a truly thrilling sporting event to have been beheld. Britain led the way, with Channel 4 dedicating 150 hours of programming and a further 350 hours of online footage across three temporary on-demand channels.
Full stadiums and record-breaking ticket sales combined with the impressive British televising have contributed to a real revamp of the attitude shown towards the athletes competing from 164 nations. Finally these athletes have been given the recognition and respect deserved for their athletic excellence, a privilege long since evident in the able-bodied Olympics.
Events have been wonderful to spectate – the multitude of diverse handicaps sported by the athletes provided many events with an unpredictability that made for exhilarating and often sensational results. What could be more memorable than watching wheelchairs hurtle down the track, blind cyclists smash world records, one limbed amputees doing the high jump or military wounded soldiers regaining use of their broken bodies?
Channel 4 went out on a limb with a different approach to the Games, and broadcast ‘The Last Leg’ presented by comedian and leg amputee, Adam Hills. His laughter with (and at) the athletes of the games proved to be hugely successful with the British audience. As a country who passionately support the underdog, you can see why bringing the Paralympics back home to London (where they initiated in 1948 to aid WWII veterans) hit home with a heartfelt warmness upon our nation’s heart.
The media coverage of other countries has been encouraging, with Australia, France, and Germany having shown comprehensive coverage of the Games with around 100 hours of footage over its 10 day span.
However there has been one glaring exception to this trend. The United States of America decided to present its audience with a mere five and a half hours of footage. Containing absolutely no live coverage, NBC gave a shameful four segments of 60 minute highlights and a final 90 minute round up. There could be a great many reasons for this: a lack of awareness; the perception that the Games would lose the networks money; and timetable clashes with other U.S. sporting events.
Yet for a country that prides itself on its sporting reputation and one who finished so strongly in the Olympics, it seems highly surprising that there was so little interest given to its Paralympians.
Astonishingly, for a country with so many young veterans, there were very few who competed in the Games – they contributed only 20 athletes, six of whom were injured in combat.
According to American network ESPN, “Disabled war veterans have given the media a new reason to cover the world’s second biggest sporting event [the Paralympics]”, yet this statement is certainly not represented by the meagre Games footage.
This said, I am proud to say that, as a Brit, I have loved watching the Paralympics through the excellent media coverage provided to our country.
The coverage on Channel 4 was fantastic, and many people are convinced that the last two weeks have really changed attitudes to disability throughout the UK.
The athletes really were Superhuman.