Is Britain’s relationship with disability sport changing?

The value of sport in Britain has increased over time and now holds great importance in society. However sport is even more important in the life of a person with a disability. This is because of the rehabilitative influence sport can have not only on the physical body but also on rehabilitating people with a disability into society. Furthermore, sport teaches independence. Nowadays, people with a disability participate in high performance as well as in competitive and recreational sport. However with sport being so important to disabled people is the relationship between it and Britain changing? Was the extensive coverage of the Paralympics on Channel 4 a result of it being in Britain as a result of the BBC raising the bar for coverage, of technology becoming available, trying to be politically correct, or is it genuinely because of social attitudes and is this enough?

The host of the London 2012 Paralympics was Channel 4 who said they’d be offering ‘around 500 hours in total, including around 150 hours on Channel 4 as well as three additional streams of live action on Paralympics Extra, which are available online and on digital platforms.’[1] This tells us that the Paralympics in 2012 had a considerably more amount of airtime than any previous Paralympics ever. This also tells us that Channel 4 have made it available so that viewers can watch live action online and other digital platforms as well as their main televised channel.

The media has played a big part in making people a lot more aware of disabled sport compared to 40 years ago when disabled sport was never even considered to be something worth watching. One of the main reasons towards disabled sports success was the London 2012 Paralympics. ‘Some 2.7 million Paralympics tickets have been sold – beating targets by 200,000 and predicted sales by £10m.’[2] This implies that people are beginning to show more interest in disabled sport.  This encourages the media to cover sporting events with disabled individuals due to the extra demand to watch this type of sport as society increases its awareness and interest in disabled sport.

However, an article from the BBC was recently published questioning the long-term impact of the Paralympic legacy.  ‘A year on from the Paralympics, the event’s legacy “hangs in the balance” as attitudes towards disabled people fail to improve.’[3] This suggests that society did take some interest in the leading disabled sports events however over time appear to have lost that interest. ‘In a survey of more than 1000 disabled UK adults, 81% say attitudes towards them have not improved while more than one in five believes life has got worse in the 12 months since the Games.’[4] This tells us that the public has now dropped their curiosity in disabled sport, which may then have on effect on the amount of airtime the media choose to assign to disabled sport.

Yet, in 2011, an article was published by The Guardian saying ‘the proportion of disabled people is rising and now represents 1 billion people – 15% of the global population.’[5] This significant increase in the disabled population in relation to the rest of society could suggest that the percentage of people taking part in disabled sport is also rising giving the media more of an incentive to cover events or games. ‘More disabled people in Wales are taking part in sport than ever before, according to new figures’. This implies that the percentage of disabled people taking part in disabled sport is rising and, therefore, increasing awareness in society, which may contribute to the media giving more airtime to disabled sport.

Another consideration is effect of global warfare, and the media coverage of significant conflicts, which have highlighted the tragic effects of war when soldiers are injured and become disabled through their injuries. ‘One of the main developments in Paralympic sport across the world in recent years has been the number of injured service personnel becoming involved.’[6]  Since 2001 the United Nations has been at war with Afghanistan and Iraq and from then ‘at least 39,914’ [7] soldiers have been injured whilst fighting – increasing the amount of disabled population. As soldiers are trained to fight they have to keep themselves fit by maintaining regular exercise, but as they get injured they may not be able to serve in wars but are disciplined to continue with this need to exercise on a consistent and regular basis.  Jon-Allen Butterworth, ‘The 26-year-old lost his left arm in a rocket attack in Basra in 2007 while serving with the RAF as a weapons technician’ then decided to take up cycling and ‘he won gold and broke the world record in the C5 1km time trial at his first World Championships in 2011 and repeated the feat earlier this year in Los Angeles. He is set to compete in five events in London – the kilo, 4km pursuit and team sprint on the track and the road race and time trial at Brands Hatch.’[8]

Since 2009, Jonnie Peacock, the British amputee, has been an archetype of the Paralympics recently becoming the world record holder for the T44 100m sprint taking gold at the London 2012 Paralympics and also been awarded an MBE for the service to his country. 100 meter sprint being the most popular athletic event across both the Olympic and Paralympic games was bound to be watched by many but it having such a popular British icon with high hopes of success had a big impact of the number of British viewers. ‘Over 6m viewers watch Jonnie Peacock’s gold medal-winning 100m sprint.’[9] This quotation showing the massive volume of people that tuned in to watch Peacock race. With such a vast amount of people interested in the much loved Jonnie Peacock Channel 4 could be accused of using him in a way that could relate to the star system- using a popular icon to draw in attention- which will have an affect on the relationship between Britain and disabled sport.

 

 

(Next Paragraph- Talk about the Channel 4 Paralympic logo ‘Meet the Superhumans’ which emphasizes how much society recognizes the triumphs of disabled people, the logo suggesting instead of disabled people being behind able bodied people they’re actually in front and how much they are recognized from the past to today)

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