Here's a challenge: forget the disability, focus on the sport
06:25 GMT, 27 August 2012
'Thanks for the warm-up' say the Channel 4 adverts declaring the Paralympic Games are coming to town.
'Forget everything you thought you
knew about strength,' says another trailer. 'Forget everything you
thought you knew about humans. Meet the superhumans.'
The adverts are deliberately cheeky;
deliberately in-your-face and challenging. Aggressive, even. One advert
features a bomb explosion, car crash and a baby scan interspersed with
images of elite athletes such as swimmer Eleanor Simmonds and Jonnie
Flying the flag: The French Paralympic team arrive at St Pancras
The Paralympic Games isn't going to be about cosy chats on a sofa and a patronising 'well done' for reaching a final, that's for sure, but it should still be about sport.
You can add 'Forget everything you thought you knew about athletes' to that list, too: for the next fortnight, our idea of what sportsmen and women look like is going to be turned on its head.
I was at St Pancras station when the French Paralympic team arrived on the Eurostar on Saturday. There was a big fanfare announcement and then a procession of people in blue tracksuits appeared. People stared. Some of them were in wheelchairs, but it wasn't that. It was that they looked, as one chap next to me put it, 'well, just a bit old'.
Olympic teams are all shapes and sizes, encompassing show-jumpers, judokas and marathon runners all under one national flag but the physical differences are more exaggerated with Paralympians.
The British team will still be in Stella McCartney-designed adidas kit, but some look very different to the image conjured up by the word 'athlete'.
Elite level: Jonnie Peacock
We can get so wrapped up in what the competitors look like and their journeys to the start line that we forget about the actual sporting event. It's still about getting from A to B faster than anyone else, or scoring more points than the other team. It's just that your opponent might not have an arm, or a leg, or needs a wheelchair or prosthetic limb to try to beat you.
'Sometimes people go, “Oh, they're inspirational”,' said Olympian and Paralympian Oscar Pistorius, 'because the perception they had was so warped – “That person doesn't have any arms and legs. They shouldn't be able to do this”.
'Well, that person's not focusing on what they don't have. They're focusing on what they do have.That's why you get so many more Paralympic athletes who are far more able than able-bodied people who are doing things with their bodies. It's just a mindset. Yes, it's inspirational, but it's hardcore sport. I've seen some phenomenal Paralympic moments that are, just from a sporting point of view, amazing.'
Do you, then, try to forget about the disability and just focus on the ability This is impossible. There is a human need to explain how these athletes can do what they do; how they overcome physical and mental barriers to challenge for gold. It would be disrespectful to simply ignore it, and it should be celebrated.
But the ingredient that makes the Olympics so sensational – this fleeting opportunity, once every four years, to be the best you can possibly be – still applies to the Paralympics.
It's still sport, just very different to what we're used to. Forget everything you thought you knew – and enjoy the challenge.
My way: Roy Hodgson
… and this is what I have been doing this week
Admiring Roy Hodgson's determination to do things his way. 'Should England youth teams all use the same formation' 'Not really . . . systems are overexaggerated anyway.' Will you pick John Terry in the next squad' 'Yes.' There's no saying anything was lost in translation now.
Digesting Lance Armstrong's decision to say 'enough is enough' and not contest drugs charges. For 'great' we must now read 'cheat'. How can that be 'enough'
Visiting Hampton Court Palace for the unveiling of the British flag-bearer at the Paralympics opening ceremony, Peter Norfolk OBE. The Quad tennis double gold medallist, 51, is nicknamed 'the Quadfather'. 'It probably should be the Grumpy Father,' he said, 'but I'm overjoyed.'
What they said
Yang Jian, a commentator for China's state broadcaster CC TV, was almost in tears when Liu Xiang hit the first barrier in his 110 metres hurdles heat at London 2012. 'This is the worst outcome I have thought of,' he said. 'If an athlete does not have a good leg, it's like a soldier without a gun.' All very poetic. The problem, according to Chinese newspaper the Oriental Guardian, is that it was scripted. The broadcaster knew Liu was carrying an injury and had prepared four scripts – including a 'crying' version. They say sport is theatre but duping your audience is not part of the act.
Performance of the week
It 's tough to upstage Usain Bolt, but Yohan Blake managed it in Lausanne on Thursday, recording the joint third fastest 100 metres time of 9.69sec. Bolt was watching as he prepared to run the 200m: he may keep an even closer eye on his training partner now.