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Don’t leave the Paralympics out in the cold

It’s my turn—me being Allegra Holbrook, COT’s Web and Social Media Editor, the person talking to you from COT’s various social media platforms—to take up the blogging mantle. I wanted to share with you some thoughts about this week’s Paralympic Winter Games.

Photo taken from www.bbc.co.uk

Photo taken from http://www.bbc.co.uk

It seems to me that the Paralympics never gets the media attention it deserves. And before I continue, I should point out that all of what follows is very much my own opinion and not in any way representative of COT as an organisation.

The Paralympic Winter Games began on Friday (7 March) and continues until this Sunday (16 March), and I wasn’t expecting them to get as much coverage as the Winter Olympics because, well, they don’t. London 2012 was fantastic for the Paralympics, and the Games sold out, proving that they are very popular with sports fans. Yet there’s still a long way to go before the Paralympics gets the same level of respect and support, and attention, that the Olympics gets.

This year, it’s all got a lot worse. 

Sochi was not a popular choice to host the Winter Olympics in the first place, due to Russia’s recent controversial legislation, and now Russia is in much deeper water with the international community. As the situation in Ukraine intensifies, UK and US governments have announced that they will not be attending the Paralympics.

Furthermore, Paralympian and a man previously a huge inspiration to disabled people everywhere, Oscar Pistorius, is currently on trial for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

We don’t yet know whether these allegations are true, and Pistorius is innocent until proven guilty. However, when disabled sport is so in need of positive publicity, the story that will be getting all the attention is not a good one. Pistorius was a hero to many people; not only disabled athletes, but anyone who struggled with barriers their disability put in their lives and who strived to overcome them. I can’t help but think that many people will feel let down and despondent if the allegations prove to be true.

So what can we do to give disabled sport a much needed boost? If politicians are boycotting Sochi and the media is condemning Pistorius, what feats of sporting achievement or sporting heroes with disabilities will they celebrate instead? What can OTs do to promote sport and activity for people with disabilities? Where do we go from here?

The Commonwealth Games are coming this summer, where disabled and non-disabled sport is fully integrated. A number of OTs are involved in projects that harness the power of sport as a meaningful occupation; in a video on our YouTube channel, Peter and David talk about the role that football played in helping them overcome drug and alcohol addiction.

I would love to hear your positive and inspiring stories of the role of sport as an occupation, so that we can show the media, politicians and the general public the value and power of disabled sport. 

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