23 Jul 2010

Paralympics: on a wheel and a prayer

The fact is that you need to be entering the scoring area with some speed before you hurl the ball.

You spot your chance and then your head and your mental systems are in a panic…Shall I use my hands to propel the wheel chair or hang on to the ball before Gordon Ramsay lives up to his name and rams me!

The other night Channel 4 staged an extraordinary party to celebrate their victory in securing the Paralympics TV coverage, and their plans for the staging of the games in 2012.

I turned up as a complete innocent. There was an incredible atmosphere in the room – mechanical wheel chairs, partially sighted, deaf, blind and other athletes with disabilities.

Yet within a few minutes of being present, the awareness of disability fell away and we were all bound as one upon what promises to be an extraordinary televised adventure.

Goal ball, Sitting Volleyball, Blind Football – a string of Paralympics sports I had little or no awareness of. For me, the high spot of the evening was that of being dragooned into a cage at one end of the room to play wheelchair basketball.

There is an alarming energy on the pitch. The basket is the same height as it is in conventional basketball and yet we are in chairs with slanted Speedo wheels.

And Speedo there is. I had dozens of opportunities to score.

Saw my pitch hit the rim of the basket so often, curl around it and then plop to the floor without going through the net. And then, not once, but twice actually seeing the thing go right through the basket and SCORE!

I came away from the evening feeling elated that my channel had secured the games.

2012 will see the first ever wall to wall live daily coverage of extraordinary events.

The UK teams will sadly be bolstered by the many highly athletic military men and women wounded in the Afghan war.

I say sadly, because no one wishes them the consequence of their service.

At the same time, they will be significant drivers in the UK effort. Several have spoken of the amazing role that physical fitness and athletic ambition have in their rehabilitation.

We have tended to see 2012 simply for the London Olympics. I suspect the Paralympics will make their presence felt as never before.

Tweets by @jonsnowC4

25 reader comments

  1. margaret brandreth-jones says:

    I am so glad you have the coverage of an important event and a continuing step forward in societal inclusion.

    These events are not something we should look on with total sorrow as most able bodied people could not compete on the same level.

    In the mid 1980’s it was my job to care for the disabled and sufficient funds were not forthcoming . It was seen as an aspect of life with a low priority ; a state of affairs which would not create wealth so of secondary importance. I would like C4 to prove differently.

    You should be used to wheels, but I imagine having to hold onto a ball and manoeuvre and shoot at the same time is like learning to drive again. Ah well a few more bruises in the learning process are worth the very real empathy you must have felt.

  2. Saltaire Sam says:

    Great stuff, Jon

    Good week for good news stories. Without wishing to be a polyanna, I think we are going to need as many of these as we can get!

    1. margaret brandreth- Jones says:

      Sam Polyanna is exactly what we should be… there is nothing else if we are not ‘glad’

      That sentimental slush makes me feel glad.. long may it reign.

  3. adz says:

    The fact that channel4 has the TV rights to show the 2012 paralympics is fantastic news. We couldn’t expect the beeb or sky to have those aswell! That would be taking it too far although its far enough as it is. Murdoch has too much say in what the british man & woman watch on TV.
    It’s also great news that out war veterans will be able to compete in such important events. At least they’ll be able to represent our country in sport and not war!
    adzmundo The Venus Project,ZM & CND

  4. Paul Begley says:

    The photographs say it all – sport as it should be!

  5. alice test says:

    US senators

    This morning, Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said the Scottish government believed it had given the US the “appropriate level” of assistance so far.

    “We’ve given information that clearly refutes any knowledge that we have regarding BP,” he said.

    “The inquiry by the US senators is into BP oil deals with the last British government. We were neither party to nor privy to any of those discussions. We’ve made that clear.

    “We’ll be happy to provide clarification or refute any points that may come up, but we really can’t provide any further assistance because we just don’t know.”

    “I’m giving active consideration to this invitation. I want to show proper respect to the senior US senators to what is a request not a demand.

    I set out in my statement yesterday evening before I’d seen the letter my concerns about the principles involved but above and beyond that I can’t help them on the key issue, which I now found out is their central concern from their letter: why is Mr Megrahi released by the Scottish Executive on compassionate grounds.

    Now I literally had nothing whatever to do with that – it was an entirely separate decision for the Scottish justice se

  6. Jim Flavin says:

    Yes – good news – and the photos do say it all – but the blue socks !!

  7. phil dicks says:

    This sounds like a noble event, and if you’re aiming for the noble, then all you can curse yourself for is failed-tactics. This is good, and forgiveable. But we absolutely must not forget that these are not Beckhams, not Federers, and they by-crikey are not a Mills&Boon justication of a wrong-headed society, just as boxing doesn’t ‘provide a route for working-class men in a limiting society’ – it damns that society. The Paralympics aren’t a cause for non-disabled celebration – they should damn and harangue us.

  8. Richard Conway says:

    Great newsm, why have you stopped giving the daily euro rate at the bottom of the report?

  9. anniexf says:

    Channel 4 does it again! How civilised to give equal coverage instead of mere lip-service. It will be so refreshing to be able to see it all instead of the highlights squashed in when there’s a brief slot. Well done C4.

  10. byrdele says:

    Kudos once again, Channel 4 News! The parathletes not only deserve this publicity for having plunged ahead into sports and refusing to feel sorry for themselves (although I wouldn’t blame them if they did) and have achieved something. They have achieved a deep satisfaction for themselves, the ability to stay physically active but have also set an important role model for us all: stay as physically active as you can do, i.e. it’s good for your body and spirit and try to get as much out of life as you can. Off the subject but not really: look at Stephen Hawkins. Would one think that he would have a quality life? He thinks he does. He takes one inch to most people’s mile of quality of life and stretches it to the limit. The parathletes have done the same. A good lesson to all of us.

  11. Moonbeach says:

    Sorry to have been ‘off the net’ for so long.

    A number of years ago I visited Hedley Court where severely disabled servicemen and women were sent for treatment.

    Their determination, black humour and bravery in overcoming their disabilities were truly infectious and inspirational.

    Those in our ‘nanny state’ who complain about their lot, their rights and compensation for trivial accidents should be taken to meet these super people and feel really ashamed.

    Let’s hope that the viewing figures in 2012 match the strength of character set by paralympians.

  12. eamonn blair says:

    thanks for a great blog jon,fair play to channel 4 for doing what the BBC or sky could not or would not do!

  13. David Wright says:

    Like most people in Britain, I won’t be watching any coverage of the Paralympics on C4 or any other channel. Olympic competition should not be for disabled people just as it should not be for old people. Or maybe it should be and C4 should be showing the Senilympics. For sure its great that disabled people and old people participate in sport but let’s not muddle up their endeavours with Olympic sport or pretend that anyone wants to watch them at it.

    1. adrian clarke says:

      David , i like to be contraversial anddiscriminatory , but i find your comments offensive.I will certainly watch C4’s coverage ,not because the athletes are disabled but because they are athletes.Fit young men and women,who have overcome tremendous handicaps to compete for their various countries .Under your disgraceful thinking i suppose Stephen Hawkins ,should not be allowed to be a scientist

    2. anniexf says:

      David,if you believe old = senile, then there’s little hope of expanding your narrow mind. And if you believe most people in Britain won’t be watching the Paralympics, then check out the viewing figures when C4 starts the coverage.
      Ellie Simmonds, a double-gold medallist in swimming, trained at our local pool (which is to see its opening hours slashed because of Council cuts) before she moved to Wales. She’s an inspiration to everyone who meets her.
      The Olympic and Paralympic values are courage, determination, inspiration,equality, respect, excellence and friendship. Those don’t seem to be yours.

    3. phil dicks says:

      David: I can understand why you’re under fire, but you sort-of have a point. We tend to think that sport has something-to-do-with-romance-glory-heroism, but it’s not really. Sport is an act of measurement, a cold, calculting science: how fast can a human run/jump, etc. Given this, white men at track events are a complete nonsense, women in tennis are a photo-marketing opportunity, and disabled athletes do raise the uncomfortable thought that we’re enjoying a circus act.
      Sport-as-fun-and-exercise is for everyone, but the Olympics are an elite event.
      If anyone on this thread can explain why women have their own darts championship when there is no physical reason why they shouldn’t be competing with the men, then I’ll talk all of the above back; until then, there is sport and there are sideshows.

    4. anniexf says:

      Phil, with your breathtaking over-simplification you’ve reduced things to their crudest! You write like someone who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing….
      The Olympics, as distinct from the Paralympics, have become a venue for professional cheats, and there’s nothing elite about that. Money is the sole motivator and has been ever since sports “scholarships” enabled thickos to bring sporting glory to their colleges, thus ensuring cash donations from people who wanted the kudos. And so it goes on …
      As for darts – isn’t that a GAME? I wouldn’t dignify it under the heading of “sport”. As for why women don’t compete with men in darts – well, are they allowed to? We’d have to ask the men’s governing body, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it all boiled down to …money. Why would they want to risk mere women getting a share of the pot?!

    5. phil dicks says:

      Annie: I don’t know what to say! You’re a whirlwind.

    6. anniexf says:

      Phil: Just trying to convince myself ( and David Wright?) I’m not yet senile!

    7. phil dicks says:
  14. Saltaire Sam says:

    Off topic
    Jon, it would be good to have discussion on C4 News about the way the government has handled its first few months.

    Given that during the election they couldn’t tell us how big the cuts would be and only spelled out ideas like ‘the NHS is safe with us’, they seem to have been able to put together a very extreme set of policies with almost indecent haste.

    We now know the cuts are far greater than anyone envisaged, on top of which we have major changes in NHS, education and now police policies.

    No major company would introduce such massive changes in direction in such a short time and it almost looks as though many of these idealogical switches are taking place just because they can.

    1. adrian clarke says:

      I agree Saltaire .It really would.I think there are several news items worthy of discussion.
      The proposal to alter the voting system.The cuts .MPs election expenses.Prisons and sentencing.There is a lot going on that we have to introduce off message.

  15. Gerard Horgan says:

    Jon maybe you can get Barclays Bank to sponsor you to go back and report on Haiti.

    1.9 million people are in tents facing the rainy season and the onset of hurricanes, it is a looming human catastrophy of epic proportions, the story needs highlighting, please bring it to Channel 4 news.

    Best wishes,


  16. Gillian Mackenna says:

    I do believe that sport helps in everything. It gives you a goal and helps you to get used to competing, but also the joy of participation.

    It also teaches about the pride of losing, when you get it your best.

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