The Paralympic games — originally called the International Wheelchair Games — were first held in 1948 for World War II veterans with spinal cord injuries. The games were held in London at the same time as the 1948 London Olympic games.
Fast forward 68 years, and the Paralympics are the third largest international sporting event, just after the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup. The games didn’t start out so big. The first official Paralympics, held in Rome in 1960, were only open for athletes in wheelchairs. The games expanded to athletes with different disabilities in 1976. Starting in 1988 in Seoul, the games were held immediately after the Olympics in the same facilities.
This summer’s Paralympic games just wrapped up in Rio, not that anyone would know. For some reason, there is next to zero coverage of the Paralympics.
The word “Paralympics” comes from combining the words “parallel” and “Olympics.” They are supposed to be the “Parallel Olympics.” So, why aren’t they treated equally?
This year, NBC increased its Paralympics coverage from 50 hours in London to 66 hours in Rio. Do you know how much coverage NBC gave the Olympics this year? It designated 6,755 hours of coverage for the Olympics on multiple NBC-owned channels. The Paralympics were relegated to NBC Sports — a channel not everyone has — and received less than 1 percent of the coverage the Olympics did.
Instead of showing wheelchair rugby, the women’s table tennis team final, wheelchair fencing or archery on Friday, NBC Sports aired the qualifying event for the NASCAR Sprint Cup’s Chicagoland 400. I would much rather watch athletes at the peak of their respective sports than a practice for a race sponsored by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
I don’t know what everyone else thinks, but to me, the Paralympics are amazing. It’s the essence of the Olympics, but every sport is harder and the athletes typically have more inspiring stories.
Did you watch any Olympic soccer? I watched a few games. The Olympic soccer tournament is boring. The teams have to use their Under-23 rosters, so the competition isn’t as good as other international tournaments. In the Paralympics, they play blind soccer. The ball has bells in it so the athletes know where it is. It’s impressive — I recommend looking it up.
Olympic athletes are inspirational; this year’s Rio Olympics were full of heartwarming stories.
But, the amount of adversity Paralympic athletes overcome is incredible. People would pay attention to those stories if given the chance. So, why isn’t NBC giving people more chances to tune in?
NBC has been horrible with social media interaction of the Paralympic games. The only accounts posting about the games are official Paralympic accounts and British news outlets, where the games are much more popular. Paralympic triumphs and stories are practically made to be shared on Facebook. All NBC has to do is put in more effort.
On the NBC Sports website’s front page, there isn’t one mention of the Paralympics. The website gives fantasy football advice, recaps the Chelsea vs. Liverpool soccer match and provides coverage of Notre Dame football. There is not one mention of one of the world’s biggest sports events featuring more than 4,350 athletes from 160 countries.
I get it, people have short attention spans. Football just started, and Major League Baseball playoffs start in a little more than a week. But with enough marketing and actual work from NBC, people will watch.
In the UK, the Paralympics get real advertising and news coverage, and in 2012, the London Paralympics were the most watched Paralympics ever. The games broke TV records with a cumulated international audience of 3.4 billion viewers, according to the official Paralympics website.
Meanwhile, the United States wasn’t even among the top five countries — China, Japan, Germany, Great Britain and France — in viewership. The populations of Germany, Great Britain and France combined are still smaller than the United States, yet somehow, more of their people watched.
People have the ability to care about the Paralympics, but they aren’t being given a chance.