29 Aug 2012

The Paralympic menace of good news

Well in to my journalistic career, I have discovered an uncomfortable truth. The midwife of my discovery – the Parlaympics. From my earliest assignments, I have been dispatched to cover war, pestilence, political collision, and downright dishonesty. I have been sent to lever up the heavy rocks of subterfuge and disguise to reveal the murky truths that reside in human frailty.

Rare is it indeed to be called upon to reveal new truths that uplift and inspire the human condition. We moaned our way toward toe London Olympics – we found grumblers  about the money being spent, about the legacy beyond, even about the logo – once upon a time a stinker of a design with garish colours, now cacophony of glorious angles, pinks turquoises and purples.

Then, the happy day dawned when we discovered a private contractor had fallen down on the job. Thank  God for G4S, already seen by some as a villain of privatisation, now revealed as incapable of supplying the contracted thousands of security personnel to police the security at the games. G4S provided the smelly backdrop to an event which would surely now supply a cascade of negative stories.

It was not to be. The staging, the running, and the sport of the Games swamped every ounce of journalistic resistance. We rejoined the human race, rejoiced along with the rest of the world at one of the most uplifting and inspiring events of our live times.

And so it is today, ahead of the lighting of the Paralympic stadium’s 166 flamed cauldron and the start of the Paralympic Games. We journalists have been dispatched to explore and report them ahead of their fiery opening ceremony tonight. What we have found represents the very highest endeavour of the human spirit – matched by an equally momentous achievement of the human physique, a physique often battered in the birth canal, on the battle field, by the microbes of disease, by the motorway, and more.

Our central and unforgettable discovery is that the Paralympics are not about disability. They are about sport and human achievement. In that they are rightly in unison with the Olympics. Every Paralympic sport that I have been sent to report, every Paralympian I have interviewed has led me to the same place – “I am who I am, and who I am is a person consumed with a particular sporting passion.” My initial obsession with the pistons of their prosthetic, their missing hand, their cerebral palsy, their paralysis, is drowned by what happens on the track, in the pool, on the court, and on any field of play.

People have asked why Jon Snow’s Paralympic Show proved such a contrast with Channel 4 News whose studio we cleverly shared. The answer is simple. For the first time in my reporting life I have basked daily in the positive, the optimistic, the challenging, the quirky, and the joy. It is all summed up in the Paralympic Games – opening tonight and running for eleven days only. And then what?

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