Contrary to popular public assumption, the closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics did not mark the end of the excitement in PyeongChang, South Korea. As the Olympic athletes made their way out of the Olympic Village, the Paralympic athletes were just around the corner, awaiting their turn to make their mark in their sports.
There are six events at the 2018 Winter Paralympics: alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, ice hockey, snowboarding and wheelchair curling. These events are thrilling to watch on an international scale, and objectively, the public should be just as excited to watch this version of the competition as they were to watch the able-bodied athletes compete. However, it seems that many are not aware of the magnitude and importance of the Paralympic Games; they just don’t seem to cause as much of a stir in the social consciousness compared to the traditional Olympics.
In a culture riddled with short attention spans, we often forget there’s a whole crop of athletes who have exerted just as much effort in their sports and honed their crafts just as fervently as their able-bodied counterparts have. The Paralympics are just as important to these athletes, yet they receive very little public attention here in the United States. While other countries broadcast in-depth coverage of the games, America is far behind. We do not give Paralympic athletes as many appearances on late night talk shows or as many photoshoots on cereal boxes as their able-bodied counterparts. We, as a society, are pityingly obsessed with the spectacle of able, typical human bodies excelling at their respective sports – so much so that we neglect to see that disabled athletes should be cared about and appreciated just as profoundly.
In an impassioned rant on Twitter, entertainment personality Mr. T contributed to the movement to increase excitement for the Paralympic Games. In his tweets, he acknowledged that, while the Olympic Games have come to a close, the festivities in PyeongChang are not nearly finished yet, including the hashtag “#IPityTheFoolwhodontwatchtheParalympics.”
However, much of mainstream media are joining the movement to increase public awareness and excitement for the Paralympic Games this year. Broadcast giant NBC will be increasing their coverage of the Paralympic Games tremendously, broadcasting 94 hours of the events on television, which is nearly double the amount of airtime as the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi. And if that weren’t enough already, NBC will also have over 140 additional hours of coverage available on the NBC Sports app and the NBC Sports website.
However, increased broadcast time for the Paralympics does not take away from the fact that a huge disparity still exists between the media coverage for the Paralympics versus the Olympics. While NBC is stepping up their game with this year’s Paralympics broadcast, the network (and its sister networks) aired over 2,400 hours of content for the 2018 Winter Olympics in February.
Many of the Paralympic athletes of Team U.S.A. are military veterans whose tragedies have not slowed down their passion and commitment to their country. Audiences will also be able to see Daniel Cnossen competing in the 15k cross-country skiing event once again. Cnossen, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, spent the four years between Sochi and PyeongChang training like his fellow athletes… and earning a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard at the same time. Alpine skier Josh Elliot, a Marine Corps veteran, had never skied prior to December 2011– only eight months after he stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost three fingers and both of his legs above the knee.
These inspiring athletes, and many many more, will begin their Paralympic journey in South Korea on March 9. The opening ceremony will be broadcast on NBCSN at 3 a.m. PST
Featured Photo: Paralympic athlete Shannon Dallas represents Australia at the slalom event in the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Games. AUSTRALIAN PARALYMPIC COMMITTEE.