The Canadian Paralympic Committee and CBC/Radio-Canada recently announced the launch of the Paralympic Super Series, a comprehensive package of Paralympic sports competitions available via webcast. This offer represents more than 50 hours of Paralympic sports, the largest Canadian coverage available outside the Paralympic Games.

This is exciting news for adapted sports. I have had the opportunity to attend every Paralympic Summer Games in Atlanta since 1996 and I have noticed a steady increase in media coverage over the years. Closer to home, we have witnessed the evolution of media coverage of Défi sportif AlterGo since it was founded in 1984. The launch of this Paralympic Super Series is part of this continuity.

However, there is still room for improvement because adapted sports still occupy only a very small place in the world of media. Their presence on our screens outside the Paralympic Games is very limited. Furthermore, media coverage of the Paralympic Games is lagging far behind that of the Olympic Games. And yet, there are excellent Paralympians around the world who regularly compete at the highest levels, but it is not always their achievements that the media showcase. Dr. David Howe, an assistant professor at the School of Kinesiology at the University of Western Ontario and a former athlete who represented Canada at 4 Paralympic Para-Athletics Games, noted in his research that the media tends to focus on the Paralympians’ tragic stories rather than their athletic achievements.

“There are two main stories, two popular ways of reporting on athletes with disabilities in the media. The first story is that of the athlete who has experienced an accident, trauma or illness and overcame it to become the best in his sport. The second is the story of the person with a disability for whom playing sports is an achievement in itself. The media must dance, aiming for the delicate balance between the athlete’s background and performance,” said Dr. Howe.

According to this researcher, the media only cover certain types of disabilities. “Media attention on certain disabilities or body types is greater. For example, the media will focus more on athletes who are attractive, well articulated and highly successful. They will be less interested in a tetraplegic athlete than in a paraplegic or prosthetic athlete, for example,” says Dr. Howe. Athletes with cerebral palsy are often left in the shadows, resulting in some adapted sports, such as boccia, being overlooked by the media.

 

The Paralympic Super Series currently covers only World Cups or World Para-Alpine Ski Championships. More competitions will be announced during the year, so we hope the offer will be more varied!

Nevertheless, this Paralympic Super Series is a significant step forward for Paralympic sport. It is an opportunity for athletes to take advantage of this visibility to promote adapted sport. It can also encourage young people to be more active. The package is only available on the web but may inspire other media to cover para-cycling world championships or wheelchair basketball world cups, for example. So, when will there finally be a Parahockey World Cup on TV?

 

Maxime Gagnon
Chief Executive Officer