London Paralympics a tough act to follow
To get an idea of the decibel levels being reached by fans at the London Paralympics, consider this. Two-time Australian Paralympic swimmer Brenden Hall, who has 30 per cent hearing, had never heard a crowd cheering him on in a pool until this week.
TO GET an idea of the decibel levels being reached by fans at the London Paralympics, consider this.
Two-time Australian Paralympic swimmer Brenden Hall, who has 30 per cent hearing, had never heard a crowd cheering him on in a pool until this week.
“The other day in my butterfly race I thought ‘what’s that noise’,” said the gold medal-winning teenager.
“The support is just amazing.”
That it is.
Seasoned observers have rated the atmosphere better than the Olympics at several venues with the warmth and generosity of the British crowds unprecedented.
Record-busting ticket sales at the spiritual home of the Paralympics had set expectations sky high and London has set the bar incredibly high for Rio in 2016.
“It is crazy this time around to think how far it has come in eight years from (the) Athens (Games). This is crazy,” said Matthew Cowdrey, Australia’s most successful Paralaympian.
“When (British poster girl) Ellie Simmonds is in the pool, it is nuts.”
The crowds do not have the international flavour of the Olympics but the locals have happily filled the void with a friendliness not normally associated with London.
“If you go on the subway in London the people help you, and they help each other out,” South African Oscar Pistorius said.
“It’s really transformed the city and the perceptions of the people.
“They are a lot friendlier.”
The Games are closing in on ticket sales of 2.5 million and even the weather has been great.
Wheeling up after winning silver in the 5000m in front of a frenzied 80,000-strong crowd Olympic stadium, Paralympic great Kurt Fearnley smiled at the number of media interested in his work.
“I tell you what is good, is seeing this many arms over a fence at a Paralympics,” he said to the tape recorders directed his way.
“This is good.”
The London Games have been broadcast into 130 countries, up from 80-plus in 2008, even if there is no live action on US screens.
The opening ceremony provided UK TV broadcaster Channel 4 with its biggest ratings in a decade and the ABC has been very pleased with its numbers.
The Australian broadcaster said it had reached a national audience of 1.8 million a day and ABC2 had enjoyed the highest ratings of its short history, even eclipsing SBS on Tuesday night.
The Paralympics do not have the financial muscle of the Olympics but there is an upside to that at ground level.
They don’t have to cater for large numbers of corporate spectators and dignitaries, making more space for genuine fans.
Paralympic tickets are also a fraction of the price, allowing for more families to attend, with Brits desperately trying to soak up every last drop of an unforgettable northern summer.
Australian team chef de mission Jason Hellwig, who has been involved with disabled sports for 16 years, said the London Games were a sign of Paralympic sport coming of age.
“The world is coming alive to Paralympic sport and we hope the Games are a great catalyst for changing attitudes,” he said.
The crowds and coverage of the Games were “a lot more sophisticated and informed” than at previous editions.
“The Paralympic Games is growing and evolving its own personality, it’s not trying to be a replica of the Olympic Games,” added Hellwig.
Like the 2000 Sydney Paralympics, the London edition has provided the sort of shove the movement has been craving.
“People might find the Paralympics not relevant to them,” Hellwig said.
“But everyone has come across someone with a disability in their life.
“This reminds them that disability is just a very normal part of being human.”
All shades of humanity, that is.
While the renowned tear-inducing tales of resilience have been on show, so have the sort of petulance expected in overpaid, over-hyped able-bodied athletes.
British cyclist Jody Cundy’s ferocious expletive-riddled rant following his disqualification at the velodrome was up there with the best dummy spits of all time.
Even good guy Oscar Pistorius tarnished his polished image following his shock 200m defeat.
He accused his rivals of having an unfair advantage through the height of their artificial blades, the outburst sparking international headlines and debate throughout the sporting world.
For the Paralympics, this is all uncharted territory.
The London Games are going to be a tough act to follow. – AAP
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