The Paralympics – The Olympics Plus Added Wow?

I wrote everyday during the London 2012 Olympics. I didn’t do so during the Paralympics, mainly because, and this is unusual for me, I was almost lost for words…


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I hadn’t intended to write an article a day during the Olympics, but it just happened to tie in with something else I was doing at the time, so off I went. I have been writing about goal achievement and self improvement for years, and since I’ve been a fan of the Olympics for over 35 years, it was no hardship!

When it was over, I came back down from riding that wave – wondering if the Paralympics would have the same effect, and doubting that they would.

I was wrong…

At first my attention was drawn by the disabilities, which is what happens to most people when they see disabled sport. It didn’t take long for me to get past that though, and to view the sport as just that, elite sport.

Then I found myself being just amazed at what these athletes were doing. Although I was viewing the events as a sports fan, it wasn’t the same as the Olympics – it was *more*.

They were on the same sporting journey of goal setting, hard work and achievement with possible failure, but they were doing it with the extra challenge of their disabilities.

I didn’t know what to start writing about first. It’s a problem I rarely have (if you’re a long time reader you’ll probably agree!) and it just demonstrated the impact it had on me.

I found myself shaking my head in wonder as I watched many of the events.

How about the cyclists with one leg?
Swimmers with no arms, who have to use their head to hit the wall?
The one legged high jump?
The blind long jump?

Some of them had been born with their disability, so for them they have never known anything different.

Others have had terrible accidents or illnesses, or suffered in military service or at the hands of terrorists. They have come on all sorts of journeys, as did the Olympians. The end result for both sets of athletes was the London 2012 Games, their chance to test themselves against the best in the world.

Packed venues for both, and an unprecedented public awareness of the Paralympics. The media coverage helped, and here in the UK we were lucky to get extensive TV coverage. Many countries, notably the US, only had a few paltry hours of highlights.

I suspect future coverage will change after these London Games. The networks will realise what they missed, and the output will increase. In fact I think that an inevitable progression would be for the broadcasting bidding process to have to include both events, much like the hosting process already does.

Back to the Paralympians themselves. Next time you go swimming, try it with no arms, and not just on your back either! Then imagine bashing your head into the wall at the end of the length. (Don’t actually do it though, it will hurt!)

Stand on one leg, then try hopping forward for 10 metres with a high jump at the end. You’d better try that one on grass though – you *will* fall over.

Then cover your eyes and imagine running at a full speed sprint down a track and jumping into a long jump, totally blind.

Next time you get on a bike, see how far you get just using one leg.

When you’ve done all those things, take a moment to appreciate swimming with both arms, cycling with both legs, running with your eyes open.

The Olympics were, for me, a joy.
The Paralympics were, for me, a joy.

Further integration of the two events can’t come quickly enough if you ask me, and next time I don’t expect to be quite so lost for words!

The lessons I mentioned of goal setting, hard work and commitment could be seen in both, but the Paralympics gave the added lesson of appreciation.


from the athletes that they had the chance to follow sporting dreams and in many cases give meaning to their lives. Appreciation from me of the abundance we have – abundance of ability and opportunity that we all too often take for granted.

That’s why I’ll remember the London 2012 Paralympics as The Olympics with an

    added layer of ‘wow.’

Ok, that’s it for now, let me know what you think, and please share, like, tweet etc if you enjoyed the article.

‘Til next time,
Health & Happiness,
P.S.Don’t forget to pop over to my FB page for my motivational bits and bobs – ‘Transform Your Life Now!’
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  • Great post, Gordon. My reaction was very much the same as yours. I couldn’t stop writing when the Olympics were on, then when the Paralympics came along, I couldn’t start because I, too, was lost for words. In my dictionary, “para” means either “beside” or “beyond”. Food for thought, I reckon!

    • Thanks Harriet,
      I just did not expect the Paralympics to move me as much as the Olympics, and when they moved me *more* I was caught in a ‘should have written, is it too late?’ quandry. More intergration between the two events will come I’m sure, and I will be including both on an equal footing in my upcoming book compilation! Cheers, Gordon

  • What a great post, and so true!

    We all think that the small challenges we have to face in our lives are so demanding…

    …I think your observations here really put that into perspective.

    A wonderful summer of games here in the UK, and a great legacy for us all to live up to.

    Inspiring, truly inspiring!

    • Thanks John,
      I’ve used sport as a basis to write about inspiration for many years, so lapped up the Olympics. For the Paralympics to then surpass that was a shock to me – a pleasant shock but I almost felt guilty for having relegated my expectations pre-event!
      Inspiring is certainly the word!
      Cheers, Gordon

  • Great post, like you I was amazed at some of the performances and achievements at the paralympics. It showed true dedication and commitment to perform at that level and show that a disability doesn’t prevent reaching your goals.

    Best wishes

    • Thanks Paul,
      Yes, if they can put in the effort to go for their goals with all the extra challenges they face, then what excuse do we have?
      Cheers, Gordon

  • I am watching MasterChef right now and one of the top three leading contenders is a blind woman. I also watched a reality show where there was a blind guy who did this extreme sports thing and it was incredible. They were so inspiring and they just keep making me think that I have no excuses for failure. If they don’t, I don’t. They have 101 reasons why they could quit but they don’t! They also don’t listen to what probably most people are telling them – that “it can’t be done”.

    Although I did not watch the Paralympics, I think it would be amazing to see. Thanks for bringing this out for discussion!

    • Thanks Amy,
      I agree – I kept thinking if they can do it, why do us ‘able bodied’ people seem to find so many ways and reasons to *not* do things! Gave me a massive boost of motivation to move forwards with various projects!
      Cheers, Gordon

  • Why is it that so often in life we wait for something drastic to happen before we see our full potential? That is what I got from this post. These amazing athletes show us that we can beat the odds, that we can be different and succeed in life anyway, that we have gifts we are wasting. The time to do something life changing is now!

    • Thanks Kama,
      Yes, some of the athletes had their disability from birth, so for them they’ve never known any different, but I was struck by those that had been in various accidents. They said over and over they wouldn’t change things or want their legs back or whatever, because it had given them the opportunities to do some amazing things and see some amazing places. You are right that us ‘normal’ people should go ahead and do those things without waiting for a horrendous accident.
      Cheers, Gordon

  • Truly, we realize the value of something when we lose it. It would be difficult for me to watch paralympic sports for the same reasons that you mentioned. But, now I see it as a victory of spirit and determination. Thank you for a lovely post.

    • Thanks Rachna,
      we do indeed realise the value of something when we lose it. These athletes also decided to realise the value of what they *gained*. Also, us ‘able bodied’ should learn more to appreciate what we have while we still have it!
      Thanks for your comment, I appreciate it!

  • As someone who is a bi-lateral amputee below knee, I can tell you that it is inspirational, as was the performance by Oscar Pistorius in open competition. The moment when the other runner asked for his number was so cool.

    I can tell you from personal experience that what drives us is not that we want to be “special” – we don’t have a choice – but rather, that our physical disability has not changed our heart and our desire, so we must overcome.

    I tried to find the humor in it in my blog; thanks for spreading the word on the Paralympics. One day it will, indeed, not seem strange.

    • Hi JB,
      I, like many others I suspect, found myself noticing the disabilites at first.That was partly because the presenters were explaining the different categories.
      It didn’t take long though, and it was helped by having non patromnising disabled presenters and commentators, that I was just viewing it as what it was – elite level sport. I think you sum it up nicely in that disability does not change the heart or desire. We were lucky here in the UK to get massive amounts of coverage.

      I do know what you mean about the human interest story – *every* athlete has a background, as does every person watching! However, since I’ve been writing for years about the stories of individuals and how we can draw lessons from them, the Olympics and Paralympics was like a kid in a sweet shop for me when it came to subject matter! Thanks for stopping by – I’m off to check out your blog which looks full of interest in my first stop! Cheers, Gordon