Like many this summer, I thoroughly enjoyed the feast of sport and was left wondering exactly what to do during the day when the action inevitably drew to a close. And then I remembered ‘work’…
Both the Olympics and Paralympics, which I prefer to collectively refer to as “The Games” showed that with hard work, grit, determination, vision and even more hard work, if you have a dream of doing something you can actually achieve it. The buzz phrase was “inspire a generation” and it’ll be interesting to see what long term legacy effect The Games have on us as a society going forward.
My top highlight came from somewhere I never thought it would, especially given my fortunate attendance at the Olympic Stadium to see Mr Bolt ‘do his thing’ in the 200m final. It was the women’s 34 point relay swimming final, a truly thrilling moment more about the drama in the final 3 strokes that decided a race between four teams, who less than a minute earlier were spread out over almost an entire length. If you haven’t watched it, find it on 4oD or buy the DVD that will almost inevitably land in the shops this side of Christmas.
My second highlight was Channel 4’s coverage of the Paralympics. Yes, it’s still a way off competing with the Olympics if you look purely at the numbers, but it’s a watershed moment in the mainstream coverage of such an event and what it means if you really are considered to be “disabled” by society. And yes, the advert breaks every 14 minutes also pissed me off royally, to the point where I started having recurring dreams every night that every so often David Beckham would appear to tell me my chair was sponsored by Sainsburys.
I like it when things are done differently, pushing boundaries, testing perceptions as to what is acceptable and what is not. For years disability has been that taboo subject everyone knows is there but steadfastly refuses to openly talk about. It’s not that we’re ignorant as a society, it’s simply that it hasn’t been mainstream enough in our thinking to become an everyday talking point. Yet if you know anyone who is “disabled” or talk to someone who is, the chances are that they and the people they know have a different view. So why can’t we do it as a society?
Channel 4 attempted to break the mould on this by airing a comedic ‘ daily review’ program “The Last Leg“, hosted by Adam Hills. He’s a mainstream Australian (so therefore passably) funny man who unless you knew already or he said, you wouldn’t think was disabled himself. His stories about every day life events with a twist due to his artificial leg have most audiences in raptures on Live At The Apollo, Mock the Week and so on. He did the same here, ably assisted by Alex Brooker, a fellow leg amputee with what he described as “additional hand issues”.
A show segment asked viewers to tweet in their questions on what was and wasn’t acceptable to ask or say about disability (#isitok). Whilst some were crude, most were hilarious and would have half a room full of Paralympians laughing themselves silly (the other half would simply wet themselves – see what I did there??). I was lucky enough to get a tweet read out on the final show (despite it being my least funny one!), asking whether it was OK to shake a quadriplegic by the hand during introductions when they can’t. The point of this wasn’t purely to mock, it was to bring to the fore questions that many of us have as individuals when we encounter disability or social issues for the first time. I’ve lost count of the number of close friends who spectacularly failed at the ‘to shake or not to shake hands’ conundrum with me.
To be continued next week…