Is it time to merge the Olympic and Paralympic Games?


The Commonwealth Games came to a close in Birmingham this week having incorporated the largest para-sport program in the event’s history.
Going through the schedule, table tennis appeared in the same time slot as para-table tennis, swimming alongside para-swimming and cycling alongside para-cycling as part of an eight-sport schedule .

And following its success, there have been calls for greater integration between the Olympics and Paralympics. They are now held as separate events in the host cities of the Games, with the Paralympic Games following the Olympic Games.

But members of the parasport and Paralympic community have said The flow conversations around incorporation fail to address a few key factors.

“I’m proud to be a Paralympian”

Three-time Paralympian and three-time Paralympic medalist in wheelchair basketball, Sarah Stewart, said sometimes the people making those calls don’t appreciate the Paralympic Games as their own important event with top athletes and their own rich history.
“Sometimes it comes from the perspective that the Olympics are so much better and the Paralympics should be there, rather than saying the Paralympics themselves are so brilliant on their own, Stewart said.

“Sometimes people call me an Olympian and think that’s a compliment. I don’t take that as a compliment. I’m proud to be a Paralympian.”

Australian three-time Paralympic medalist Sarah Stewart says a merger could dilute the message of the Paralympic Games. Credit: Sport the library/© Sport the library

Her memories of competing at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Paralympic Games are pure bliss. She remembers it as a time when sport, as well as disability, was celebrated.

“You’re in this big, beautiful environment that’s for a few weeks all about sport and people with disabilities,” Stewart said.

Sometimes people call me an Olympic athlete and think that’s a compliment. I don’t take that as a compliment. I am proud to be a Paralympian.

This celebration and this message could be diluted by the sheer magnitude of a combined event.
“The practical reality is that along with the Olympics and Paralympics, they are the two biggest sporting events in the world,” Stewart said.

“How would you do it?” ” She adds. “Comm Games, while it looks big, is actually a relatively small event, so you can have that mix in there.”

A man raises his hand to a large crowd holding golden shoes after winning.

Jamaica’s Usain Bolt celebrates with the crowd after his team won gold in the 4x100m relay at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Credit: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Strath Gordon, head of communications at the Australian Olympic Committee, agrees.

“It’s just not practical. The Olympics are a massive event and over the last few Games the International Olympic Committee has actually looked at reducing the number to make it more manageable in the Olympic environment,” said Mr Gordon. The flow.

“The Paralympic Games are proudly independent as an event in their own right.”

The History of Parasport at the Commonwealth Games

Unlike the Paralympic Games, parasport at the Commonwealth Games was never presented as a separate event.
Disabled athlete events were first included in the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada, but only as exhibition events (not counted in the team medal tally) in athletics and lawn bowling.
The 2002 Games in Manchester marked a huge step forward – athletes competed with their national teams and their winning results counted towards their team’s medal tally.
Twenty countries sent para-athletes in 2002 to compete in 10 events in five different sports: athletics, bowls, swimming, table tennis and weightlifting.

Since then, the program has grown with each Games. Birmingham added wheelchair basketball and triathlon to the mix this year, taking it to eight Paralympic sports. But is even narrower than the last Paralympic Games in Tokyo which had 22 sports.

Dilute the message and stunt growth

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, held in 2021 due to the pandemic, would have .

As interest in para-sport has grown and the integration into the Commonwealth Games has been hailed for raising the profile of para-athletes, the International Paralympic Committee said on Sunday that a merger with the Olympics could jeopardize this growth.

A man in a wheelchair cheers while holding a tennis racket.

Dylan Alcott reacts after winning gold in the men’s singles wheelchair tennis match at the Tokyo 2021 Paralympic Games. Credit: JEFF CROW/PR IMAGE

International Paralympic Committee spokesman Craig Spence told the BBC the current agreement with the International Olympic Committee “serves us well”.

The 2018 agreement specifies that one city must host both Games and runs until the 2032 Summer Games in Brisbane.
“Since 1988, we have seen an exponential growth in Paralympic sport,” said Spence.
“We are on a steep climb and are growing the Games, so combining the two events could potentially delay and jeopardize that growth, and we could potentially backtrack.

“It’s a conversation that comes up regularly, but you have to see if it makes sense to bring the two Games together and at the moment we think it doesn’t.”

Two different events, two different stories

Tim Mannion, chief communications officer at Paralympics Australia, agrees it’s possible the combination of events could stifle that growth.
“These are two very different events with two different stories and they represent two different movements,” Mr. Mannion said.
“Paralympic athletes, the best disabled athletes in the world, can showcase their sports and their movements to a global audience. And I think the power movement can be diluted if they do it at the same time.”

Disability Sports Australia CEO Murray Elbourn said The flow it was great to see Para sport integrated into mainstream sports at the Commonwealth Games and to prove that it can be cohesive. But the Paralympic and Olympic Games are not the events for that.

Two men in wheelchairs throw a basketball.

Thomas Guthrie (left) and Thomas Wann of the Great Britain basketball team,training for the 7th International Games in Stoke Mandeville. The event later became what we know to be the Paralympic Games. Credit: Fred Morley/Getty Images

“It’s this communal perception of inclusion, which we sometimes struggle with in the disability space to get the general public to understand, from a disability perspective, why it’s important to have a secular event,” said said Mr. Elbourn.

While the community is largely on the same page that events should not merge and are unable to merge, Stewart and Mr. Elbourn agree that this is something that should continue to be revisited.
Still, Stewart said it’s a sentiment that should prevail in other areas.

“At national games, college games, school games, getting everyone together often works really well.”

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