Table of Contents
Sports have been playing a vital part in the progress and boost of nations as well as individuals. The present era has witnessed different types of sports not only for entertainment purposes but also as a way to maintain political relations, and maintain the economy of the country by earning foreign exchange. Besides different types of sports, there exist varying natures of sport and one of them is known as ‘disability sports’. The current paper discusses the concept of disability sport as an actual sport and illustrates it through 2008 Beijing Paralympics sport event. The models of disability will be discussed along with the opinions provided by media on the subject.
The concept of sports comprises of various types of activities that are usually competitive physical activity, having an organized or casual participation, and is undertaken with a purpose to improve or sustain the physical skills ability along with facilitating the participants, and sometimes spectators, with entertainment. There exist different sports, that range from the ones requiring merely two participants, to those sports that need hundreds participants at the same time, either in competition as individuals or in the form of teams.
The concept of disabled sports exists widely in the domain of sport these days. They are also called parasports or adaptive sports, and the participants include people having disability of any sort, such as intellectual, physical or mental disabilities. These sports are usually referred to as adapted as most of these are based on the current sports that are altered and improved for the purpose of meeting the requirement of people with any certain disability.
There are certain characteristics that govern the capacity of disability sports. Assistive technology is one such area that involves the utilization of technology and the new devices which are created for the purpose of enabling disable enthusiasts to play (Scherer, Marcia and Stefano, 2012). The assistive devices for the mobility impairments, for example, include the hand cycles, or recumbent bicycles, light-weight wheelchairs used in tennis, basketball, and racing, all-terrain wheelchairs that have rugged wheels and frames for the purpose of sloping over the surfaces that are unpaved, such as snow, hiking trails, or beach sand.
The terms ‘disability’ refers to the effects of consequence of a cognitive, physical, sensory, mental, emotional and/or other one or a combination of many kinds of disabilities. The possibility of the presence of a certain disability within an individual may exist from the time of birth, or emerge in the later periods of life. Numerous ‘models’ of disability have been described during the period of last few decades, of which, two models are most commonly known. They are as follows:
One of the primary and widely discussed models of disability includes the social model. According to this perspective, the major reason for the occurrence of disability is the manner in which a particular society is organized, and not the individual’s own impairment. This model depicts that disability is socially contracted; besides impairment, it may chiefly be the outcome of interaction among the people living in such an environment that is filled with communication, attitudinal, physical, and social obstructions (Department for Work and Pensions, 2014). Such barriers are usually categorized as follows:
- Environment — including inaccessible buildings and services;
- People’s attitudes — stereotyping, discrimination and prejudice; and
- Organisations — inflexible policies, practices and procedures.
The medical model is one of the many models of disability which refers to the disability or illness as the ultimate of the individual’s own physical condition that is inherent and intrinsic to the person. It does not involve any social factor and is the part of one’s own body which is likely to result in diminishing the quality of person’s living, and be the clear reason of disadvantages to the individual (Kaplan, Deborah, 2012). This model is perceived to have the belief that managing or curing the disability or illness completely or mostly relies upon the identification of the disability or illness from the deep understanding of clinical perspective and controlling or altering the course.
Normal and disabled sportsmen differ broadly in terms of their bodies and requirements in sports. Many of the equipment for sports are being designed today keeping the requirements of disabled athlete in view. The participants with disability such as the inability to use of complete loss of a limb, eyesight or hearing require different equipments for the purpose of competing in a sport. These people with challenges require different ways of communication, interaction and coaching in comparison to the normal players (Christopher, 2004).
The current paper uses the 2008 Summer Paralympics Games as a case study for the illustration of disability sports. It was held in Beijing, China as the thirteenth Paralympics. It continued from September 6 to 17, 2008; the sailing events were held in Qingdao and equestrian events in Hong Kong. There were a total of 3,951 athletes who participated from over 146 countries making this Paralympics invite the most ever nations for the games including the five countries that has participated for the first time. The 2008 Paralympics held the slogan, “One World, One Dream”. China won finishing with 211medals in total which included 89 gold medals, thus breaking 279 world records and 339 Paralympics records (Beijing 2008 Paralympics Games, 2008).
The 2008 Summer Paralympics was hosted by China in a very well-arranged manner in Beijing. The delegation from China included a total of 547 people, and out of those 332 were competitors. The champions included 135 women and 197 men, between the age ranges 15 and 51 that entered in a total of twenty sports. However, there were approximately two-hundred and twenty-six competitors that had participated for the first time in the Paralympic Games. This is considered to be largest delegation in history of China and at the 2008 Games. The medal count was topped by China in Athens in 2004 Summer Paralympics, and people anticipated that achievement was surpassed or duplicated on the home ground (Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, 2008).
The Chinese society experienced a moral and professional boost in the disables population segment. With over 300 athletes participating in the competition between Sept. 6-17 in Paralympic Games, the enthusiasm among the people for training and learning resulted into high spirits in the entire society (Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, 2008). A great boost along with inspiration, enthusiasm and high moral spirits was visible in the Chinese society before and subsequent to the Paralympic Games. They benefitted the Chinese society tremendously, along with brining special inspiration for other people through the disabled community. The head of the US Paralympic delegation, James Peake maintained that the power of Games in making the sleety better will be observed by the people when they see the extent to which disable people can accomplish (Disabled World, 2008).
Figures: Disables enthusiasts of 2008 Summer Paralympics Games (Beijing 2008 Paralympics Games, 2008)
People were amazed by the great performances at Paralympic Games. They entire media, and people talked of and appreciated the overwhelming athletic performances, ethereal opening of the ceremony, excellent quality television coverage, and termed it the best ever Paralympic Villages (IPC News, 2008). Chinese society remembers it as an infinite amount of self generated supply of emotions and passion, with wonderful volunteers, terrific organization, and thousands of new enthusiasts of Paralympic sports. The high spirits were appreciated by the spectators as well as Philip Craven, President of International Paralympic Committee.
The 2008 Summer Paralympics Games held at Beijing, China marked the biggest of all Paralympics by inviting the largest number of nations and breaking the most number of world record. The media reports and news coverage appeared to have been praising the high spirits of the participants in 2008 Summer Paralympics games that received huge coverage from media (Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, 2008). It was evident from the attention received by the media that the disability sport has been able to reflect the disabled people’s invisibility in an inevitable manner.
Despite of the changes in social attitude towards the subject, people physical or cognitive disabilities, are still viewed as marginalized and ill. In the media as well as by people, the disables players are considered as unsuitable and incapable to function and work in different other social activities. Yet, there was an evident shift in the social model of disability. Most of the media has highlighted the disabled people as being ‘superheroes’ and this stereotyping has been the part of the game since the beginning (Hui, 2008).
Most of the news and research reports composed by the media have depicted the disabled people to have strived harder due to the attitudinal shifts in the society. They are complemented, owned, and appreciated for their efforts. The Paralympics Games of 2008 did not give rise to any controversies or concerns with regards to players or cheating as the Summer Olympics did. Media assisted in creating a further positive image of the athletes, through their capabilities, performance and other features that were clearly witnessed in the 2008 Paralympics Games (Peers, 2009). The newspapers, such as Sunday Times, The Telegraph, and Guardian, had presented clearly the effort that athletes with disability has put in their career, along with the social boost that they had been receiving from the people they were surrounded by. They proved to be a clear inspiration from their fearless deeds, and by undertaking the most challenging tasks, such as archery, swimming and others, they made the competition breathtaking for the spectators.
For instance, the Sunday Telegraph has commented for a Chinese swimmer, Junquan He, having no arms, as a fearless represent or of the Games. The newspaper portrayed him as the brave player in the following words:
“Junquan He, a Chinese swimmer with no arms. As he reached the turn he had to
Touch with his head and he was quick, painfully quick it appeared, through the
water (…) Alas for the courageous Chinese competitor…..” (Hui, 2008)
The Sunday Telegraph also reported on the achievements of Natalia Partyka, a table tennis player, which exhibited the similar same attitude of bravery and courage towards the woman in fighting against disability. She was born with the right arms ending just below the elbow and still had the courage to participate in the Olympics (Will, 2008).
The Chinese Newspapers also came up with the similar descriptions about the Paralympics athletes. Oscar Pistorius has been the famous athlete who competed in Paralympics as well as Olympic games. He was given the title of the “Blade Warrior” for the reason that, when 11 months old, his legs were amputated until the below the knee. He has still been showing courage to the world (Tan, 2008).
Figure: Oscar Pistorius
The Guardian mentioned the 2008 Paralympics Games of China as being impressive with 4000 athletes topping the table. The newspaper accredited this, and mentioned it to be the belief of many other people too, that there has been a significant attitudinal change towards the 83 million disabled citizens in China (Tania, Alison, 2008). This refers to the application of social model of disability which has resulted in the increasing enthusiasm and determination of the disabled athletes. The scholars and campaigners noticed the prominent shift in the effect of games, not merely due to good technology like wheelchair lift, but also due to the changing attitudes of people.
People remember the outstanding performances of the players in words that have never been heard before. Sam Sullivan, the mayor of Vancouver expressed that the no-holds-barred staging organized at the 2008 Paralympics in China, and the spirits of the audiences had soared up the event to such heights that were never witnessed before. John Ng., the Chef-de-Mission appreciated the disabled athletes that were not able to qualify in the Beijing Paralympics and encouraged them to enter into other competitions (Disabled World, 2008). People have termed the Paralympic Games as the ‘catalyst for change’ for the disabled people in Chinese society and attitude towards them (GB Times, 2012).
Disability Sport has become one of the most organized forms of athletic championships in the current era. The Paralympics Sports, as they are commonly known, were held in China in 2008 which reflected clearly the social acceptance of the disabled people. Media praised the high spirits of handicapped players and this has resulted in prolonged impacts of the current domain of sports. Athletes such as Oscar Pistorius, Natalia Partyka, and Junquan He have been used as great examples in the newspapers.
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