Paralympics: are appearances deceptive?

The Paralympic Games in Tokyo opened on Tuesday with a spectacular show. Sports events for athletes with disabilities have long since left the shadows and entered the spotlight, some commentators rejoice. Others, however, note that despite the new brilliance of the Paralympics, many inequalities still exist.

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Der Standard (AT) /

Best publicity for inclusion

Japan attaches great importance to the Paralympic Games, Der Standard writes in praise:

“The Olympic Games are followed by the Paralympic Games - both of them behind closed doors - which will no doubt be similarly well-organised, albeit less prominent on the Japanese state broadcaster NHK. What is striking, however, is that there was hardly any talk of cancelling the Paralympics because of the coronavirus pandemic, while in surveys up to two-thirds of the population supported cancelling the Olympics. In a country that was only the 140th state to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2014, the Paralympic Games are now accorded great social importance. Japan sees the Paralympics as an ideal opportunity to raise awareness for accessibility.”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Participation grows with prosperity

The Games are still a festival for the privileged, Deutschlandfunk admonishes:

“Twenty-five countries that have their own national paralympic committees are not represented in Tokyo. Most of them come from Africa and Asia. Some could not afford the high costs, others were thwarted by political crises. Of the ten most successful nations in the historical medal table, eight are in Europe and North America. The formula is simple: with increasing prosperity, the social participation - and thus also the participation in sports - of people with disabilities grows.”

The Independent (GB) /

Back to second-class citizens afterwards

Beyond such events, far too little attention is paid to people with disabilities, The Independent complains:

“Earlier this year Johnson hailed a national disability strategy that was little more than a buffed-up PR exercise. All style, no substance. The most newsworthy line was the setting of a target for disabled hiring at MI6; they will obviously issue reports on it, yet the number of spooks is likely a bloody state secret. ... A dog is for life, not just for Christmas. Britain's disabled people are treated like dogs when the Paralympics isn't on the telly, the sort of dogs that regularly end up getting kicked.”