There was an interesting article by Joel Hammer on the BBC Sports website this week discussing the accessibility of the 2012 Paralympics in relation to Deaf spectators and athletes.
The headline ran with Craig Crowley’s comment that some people were made to feel like ‘second-class’ citizens when the attended or participated in the 2012 Paralympics.
The IPC responded on the defensive as an IPC spokesperson “we refute any allegation.”
The IPC refuse to accept the comment that deaf people felt like ‘second-class’ citizens because “absolutely no concerns were expressed to the IPC from deaf athletes or spectators before, during or after London 2012.” and on that basis no deaf people were made to feel like second-class citizens “at the best Paralympic Games ever.”
This is a rather unfortunate response from the IPC, especially as Craig Crowley was diplomatic in in comments on the BBC Sports Hour programme because he did commend the efforts that the organisers had made to improve communication and accessibility but they were still not ‘offered on a full basis’. Crowley justified his comments because in his role as president of the ICSD, he had the opportunity to tour the athletes village and attend some events and in his conversations with people he received feedback that prompted him to suggest that people felt treated like second-class citizens.
Is the IPC really not willing to accept criticism ?
According to their spokesperson they have never received any complains – and so according to them, Crowley is wrong. But the facts speak for themselves – people have spoken to Crowley and shared their experiences with him. I have also gathered comments from others who were also at the Games – athletes, officials and volunteers which suggest that if the ICSD is going to be able to make any progress in discussing the possibility of agreeing to have Deaflympic athletes and sports in the Paralympics, then they really have got their work cut out because it would appear, from the response we read this week, that the IPC are going to be difficult to negotiate with.
LOCOG themselves published a report on the accessibility of the Olympics and Paralympics in 2012, it makes interesting and extremely positive reading. Whilst it does not reveal any negative criticism, the recommendations in the report do suggest that there were things that were not ideal and thus the report has listed ways in which future world class event organisers can accommodate and include spectators to avoid treating them as ‘second-class’.
In my role at UK Deaf Sport am looking forward to joining my colleagues and discussing matters of accessibility and inclusion with representatives of the British Paralympic Association as soon as possible in order that we can help them improve things for deaf athletes who already qualify to compete under IPC classifications. Our discussions will be constructive, but they will also be frank and at times uncomfortable. They will include testimonials from athletes, volunteers and officials who were at the 2012 Paralympics and the recommendations of the LOCOG report. I am confident that we can work collaboratively for the benefit of deaf people in sport.
Does this mean that we will be asking for Deaflympic athletes to be included in future Paralympic Games ? Realistically, it is not a matter than can be resolved and agreed at one meeting. The politics and structures of the Olympic family are contrived and will take time. Through these discussions and meetings we will all be able to look to the future possibilities and determine what can be achieved in the best interest of deaf people in sport.
It is rather difficult to explain everything here on the blog. For more information and in-depth discussions about the relationships between the ICSD, IPC and IOC and the issues that will need to be covered in terms of potentially taking the ICSD back into the IPC and entering athletes into the Paralympics under a Deaf classification, you can read Same Spirit Different Team a new book, which will be released for sale shortly. You can order your copy here.
Would you like to contribute to our discussions with the IPC and BPA ? Did you attend the 2012 Paralympics as a spectator, athlete or official ? You are welcome to share your comments here both or you can email in confidence to me at my UKDS email email@example.com.
Let’s do the right thing.