What is sport for?

Paralympic Movement flag
Paralympic Movement flag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I went to see the Paralympics today. The atmosphere was fantastic, and we had the good fortune of perfect weather – a beautiful sunset visible over the stadium, and the usual people-watching in the crowd, Mexican waves, random cheering and incredibly overpriced beer.

It was still a bit depressing though. I was watching people who were impaired in such a multitude of different ways, and very impressed that the one-legged high jumpers could possibly summon up the energy to keep hopping over the bar, propelling their bodies almost entirely through their torsos. The reason it was depressing is that the overwhelming emotion was still one of pity, which I felt bad about. I shouldn’t pity someone who is the best in the world at their particular activity, but I just wanted to help them walk/run/see/concentrate, and it made me sad that their lives are so much harder than mine. It’s completely illogical, since about 99% of the world’s population lives lives that are objectively harder than mine. It’s just that unlike me, they are perhaps more grateful for moments of enjoyment and personal achievement, whereas I seem to have decided that unless I’m achieving something, and enjoying it, and being a best friend/partner/daughter/sister ever single day, I’m worth nothing. It’s embarrassing to realise that I’m the navel-gazing fool. There are people making the best they possibly could out of their opportunities and abilities, as indeed all athletes at all levels do, and pitying them is as pathetic as believing that women’s sport is somehow less worthwhile just because it’s not quite as fast as men’s. Until the 1970s, women were considered too weak to run a marathon. So hopefully attitudes to disability will also move on.

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