The capital moaned about the costs, potential travel disruptions and the bloody tourist influx. Londoners prepared a mass exodus which led sponsors to try their very best to boost morale. Everyone got to carry the torch, we were urged to stay home to support #TeamGB and see if the athletes could #takethestage. Huge ads made sure we got to know the poster boys and girls to cheer on and, indeed, we did end up cheering them on from our sofas when we saw the #stagetaken. My question is: where are the Paralympic poster people? As I watched the Paralympics opening ceremony I found myself asking, who am I supposed to cheer on?
I appreciate that these Paralympics are the biggest since they were first organised in 1960. I just heard David Cameron informing the masses that this is the first ever sell-out Paralympics. Seems a little rich – gloating after purchasing Olympics tickets was such a fiasco. Despite this, I still wonder why we don’t give the same amount of spotlight to the Paralympic athletes as we did the Olympic ones?
The pictures of Jess Ennis, Victoria Pendleton et al had feminists lyrical with praise for an alternative representation of the female body. Now I want to see swimmer Ellie Simmonds and wheelchair-sprinter Hannah Cockroft in life-size on the 205 bus to give us an alternative representation of the female spirit.
We fell in love with Olympic cutie Tom Daley and wanted a husband like Mo Farah to father our children (he sorted out his daughter’s shoes after running 5k! I have dated men who wouldn’t even pick up their own socks on a Sunday afternoon). Why can’t we have a tube poster of air-rifle contestant James Bevis and sprinter Ola Abidogun to daydream about on our way to work?
It’s 2012, for crying out loud; we’re in London, one of the most exciting and modern cities in the world – the success and promotion of the Paralympics should not so much be a point of pride as it should be a given. Idealistic, perhaps, but groups can only really be included if they are no longer seen as ‘the other’. These Paralympic athletes should become part of the national consciousness by promoting products too and let their faces and bodies be part of the street view of London and the UK. Just because para dressage rider Natasha Baker walks differently doesn’t mean she can’t do shampoo commercials.
If the Olympics gave us Bert le Clos gushing with paternal pride over his beautiful boy Chad, I cannot wait to see more proud parents hugging the likes of Clare Balding, beaming over their beautiful and talented children. Let the London Paralympics be the start of a revolution, a challenge to us on our deformed notion of human aesthetics and a bulletin to sponsors that it’s worth investing in these fantastic role models.