The London 2012 Paralympic Games officially opened yesterday evening in a brilliant ceremony that the Daily Telegraph called, “a stirring journey to enlightenment … featuring everything from athletes ‘flying’ on golden wheelchairs to amputees performing gravity-defying acrobatics.” Wrote the same newspaper’s Anita Singh: “this was a celebration of what it is to be human—of reaching your limits, then going beyond them—and it was the performers, both disabled and ablebodied, who made it a triumph.”
Our Canadian athletes have risen to the occasion and are already performing spectacularly. Five Canadian swimmers advanced today to finals in Para swimming: Brianna Nelson of Victoria, who broke her Canadian record, Benoit Huot of Montreal, Summer Mortimer of Ancaster, Ont., Isaac Bouckley of Whitby, Ont., and Aurélie Rivard of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.. Today’s competitions also featured athletes with disabilities participating in archery, cycling, equestrian, goalball, judo, and wheelchair basketball. Congratulations to you all!
While we cheer on our Paralympians as they compete with the world’s best over the next weeks, I will reflect on a particular recommendation of the Senate Human Rights committee’s recent report, Level the Playing Field: that the Government of Canada “celebrate and publicize the achievements of athletes with disabilities in a manner that is equal to the way Canada’s Olympic athletes are celebrated and promoted.”
Canadian English and French language newspapers published 181 front page articles on the Olympics over the two month lead-up period to the London 2012 Olympic Games. They published 332 more during the Games. Five major Canadian news broadcasts—CBC’s The National , CTV News, CTV’s Canada AM, and SRC’s Le Téléjournal and Le Point—featured 268 Olympic-related stories in the lead up to the Games, and a further 340 stories during the Games.
It’s too early to quantitatively compare Paralympic coverage. Many Canadian news outlets ran stories on the Paralympics yesterday, including British Columbia’s the Province, the Vancouver Sun, the Waterloo Region Record, the Winnipeg Free Press, the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, the Globe and Mail, the Windsor Star, the National Post, the Ottawa Citizen, and the Hamilton Spectator, to name the few that I have seen. Anecdotally, however, it’s clear that the Paralympic Games haven’t dominated media cycles as did the Olympic Games a few weeks ago—we’re still a far way from inspiring ‘equal celebration and promotion’. Measuring the media coverage of these Paralympic Games over the next weeks will serve as an indicator, a test that will demonstrate that our Government can still do more to lead, encourage, and ensure that our Paralympians receive the recognition that they deserve.
In the meantime, I hope that you’ll join me in cheering on Canadian Paralympians by visiting Paralympic.org, which is hosting livestream video of many Paralympic events. When you see Canadian athletes amaze—we know they will—make sure their stories are shared the next day in the newspaper, and on radio and television. If they’re not, write the editors and call the hosts! Together, we can help ensure that Canadian Paralympians are recognized and celebrated. Go Canada, go!