The 2012 Paralympic Summer Games are now underway in London. Surprised? Most people are, considering the official Closing Ceremonies of the 2010 Games occurred more than 2 weeks ago. Despite the tremendous strides made by physically challenged athletes like Oscar Pistorius, Games Organizers continue to segregate them to an event only well after the rest of the world has grown weary of Olympics and turned their attention to other interests. The only thing that could make these athletes feel more like second class citizens would be to not have a competition at all.
The complaints that American viewers had to wait for prime-time tape delayed coverage on NBC during the Olympics now seems petty when you consider there is virtually no coverage of the Paralympics. Most other nations will enjoy nearly as many hours of sports broadcast as the bale-bodied games but not in the US. The Opening Ceremony is one of the biggest draws of the able-bodied games, attracting sports fans and non-sports fans alike. However Friday's Paralympic Opening Ceremony (yes, the is a unique Paralympic opening ceremony) was not even broadcast live, but re-played at 2PM Saturday afternoon, when nobody is watching TV unless they are wearing a court ordered ankle bracelet.
Can you imagine if there was one Olympics for men and a second one two weeks later for women? What about one for white people and a second for everyone else? Imagine that the first games received all the sponsors and coverage? So why should handicapped people suffer the same ignominy? And to increase the sensitivity of this issue, the largest growing segment of disabled athletes competing are military veterans.
Now, I'm a big sports fan, but I find it hard to get enthusiastic about handicapped sports, and it has nothing to do with the nature of the competitors. For all but 2 weeks every four years, I don't care a thing about handball, judo or beach volleyball, but for those 2 weeks, I'm a freaking expert. I don't miss a single gymnastics event or triple jump.
If the Paralympic events were held during the "other" Olympics, I'd be yelling at the TV during Goalball or wheelchair basketball as loudly as I would during the "other" basketball. I know this because the Beijing Summer Games held some of the Paralympic track and field events at the same time. And they were AWESOME!
I suggest the IOC simply roll the Paralympic events into a single Olympic Games. Scheduling for venues might require the games extend to 3 weeks instead of 2, but so what? We get one more week of friendly competition and global cooperation. Plus there is only one set of Opening and Closing Ceremonies to coordinate (and I don't watch those anyway because nobody can win).