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Opinion : Why does Paralympic sport classification have to be so difficult to understand?

| September 5, 2016


With the Rio 2016 Olympics over soon the Rio 2016 Paralympic games will commence later this week on Wednesday 7th September 2016.

The 2016 Heritage Flame is already on its way to Rio following its lighting during a ceremony held at Stoke Mandeville Stadium on Friday 2nd September 2016.

Cast your mind back to London 2012, after the London 2012 Olympics were over the sporting fever continued to grip the nation throughout the Paralympic games indeed thousands were clambering for tickets to see the Paralympians in action at the former Olympic Stadium and various venues spread across London.

However since then the public’s interest in Paralympic sport seems to have waned.

Every year, for two days in July over a Friday and Saturday, the Anniversary Games are held at the former Olympics Stadium in London to commemorate the 2012 Olympics, the games form part of the Diamond League athletics calendar. In 2013 a third day of sporting action was tagged on to the Anniversary Games featuring Paralympians in action, the event was sold out with the stadium filled to capacity.

However in 2015 the stadium was not filled to capacity for third day of Paralympic action.

This year, 2016, tickets were initially sold for the Sunday event but it was subsequently cancelled with the Paralympic sport, in the form of the 2016 IPC Grand Prix, forming a couple of hours of reaces tagged on to the beginning of the Saturday’s schedule of the Diamond League athletics.

Only a few days ago it was reported on a national news site that the 2016 Rio Paralympics are to go ahead with major budget cuts.

It seems that since a pinnacle at London 2012 Paralympic sport has been in decline indeed even in the UK, as mentioned earlier in the blog, public support is not as great as back in 2012. This I find a dreadful shame.

So what could the problem be?

Well, personally I think the classification scheme used to categorise the athletes in the races is too confusing. For example the track events can be broken down into many different categories such as a T51 race, a T52 race, a T53 race, a T54 race, etc…. But what on earth is T51, T52, T53 or T54?

Well here is a description to clarify matters :

T51-54: Wheelchair track athletes. Athletes in class 51-52 are affected in both lower and upper limbs. T53 athletes have fully functioning arms but have no trunk function at all, while T54 athletes have partial trunk and leg functions.

Sadly I fear the classification scheme, while making sense in terms of medical classification of the disability, it just too complicated and not relevant to the marketing of the sport to a wider audience. Unfortunately a code T53 means very little to the masses.

Why not make things simpler?

Instead of T53 why not describe the race as, for example, ‘Wheelchair, athletes without trunk function‘? The description just given is simple to understand and there is no need to have a complicated cross-referencing table meaning the general public can understand easily thus making the marketing of the sport easier to a wider audience.

The Paralympians are humans and should be admired for overcoming disability and achieving sporting greatness, I think their events should not be categorised by a nondescript code but instead described in plain language so we can all understand and appreciate the disability the competitors have overcome.

Anyway I’m really looking forward to the forthcoming Rio 2016 Paralympics games. Lets home the team from Great Britain do well indeed I shall be cheering them on.

What do you think?

*My blogs are published every Tuesday and Friday evening around 8.00pm here on the WycombeToday.com website.

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