Friday, March 2, 2018

It's time for the Paralympics. Where's the buzz?

By Louise Kinross

This morning this story popped up in my Google alerts: Why do Americans ignore the Paralympics?

My first thought was 'What Paralympics?'

I was surprised to read that the Paralympics in South Korea begin March 9. I hadn't heard anything about it here in Toronto.

I messaged my husband, who is an editor at The Globe and Mail: "Did you know the Paralympics start next week in South Korea?"

"I did not know," was his reply.

I was totally caught up in the excitement of the PyeongChang Olympics, and was surprised I hadn't heard about the Paralympics. 

Boston Globe reporter David Scharfenberg, in the article above, describes the disinterest of Americans in the Paralympics this way: "More so than in Europe or Japan, the media landscape in the Unite States reflects an obsession with youth, sex, and money—or, rather, a certain brand of unblemished youth, a certain kind of stylized sex, and a certain type of unabashed capitalism. And the Paralympics just don't fit the formula. They cannot be easily turned into the sexy, profitable entertainment at the center of American life."

In contrast, Scharfenberg notes that hundreds of journalists from the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan flocked to the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, and the London games in 2012 were packed.

The full schedule of the PyeongChang Paralympics will be available here soon, the official website says. But the actual event starts a week today. Isn't that leaving it a little late?

Last week, The Toronto Star ran this piece about how Canada is sending 55 athletes next week, its largest contingent. CBC also has a story about it. But I don't see much, if any, coverage on individual athletes. Think about the stories we read about athletes leading up to the PyeongChang Olympics?

The 2018 Paralympics trailer, above on Youtube, has only 9,000 views. Yet Scharfenberg says that the games are the world's third-largest sporting event.

I couldn't find a Canadian video for this year's Paralympics. Please advise if there is one. I did find this U.S. one, with less than 400 views! 

Scharfenberg interviewed Rosemarie Garland-Thomsom, a professor of English and bioethics at Emory University who specializes in disability studies about the American disinterest in the Paralympics. I read her excellent book called Staring: How We Look. She points to the deep discomfort in American culture with the disabled body.

Canadians like to think their values are somewhat different from Americans. I'm not sure if they are in this respect.


In a facility with children with disabilities I would have expected more from Holland Bloorview to promote the Paralympic games. There has been very limited mention/postings/announcements about them throughout the hospital. Very disappointed.

We have been very excited to support the Paralympics and our Canadian athletes. We promoted the Paralympians on social media throughout the games on all our social media channels, we even have stories on our website about past clients who are Paralympians.

We also hosted friends, family and fans who called Greg Westlake and Dominic Cozzolino from Canadian's Para Ice Hockey Team through the Canadian Tire Red Door. The video is posted on our facebook if you want to check it out.

We appreciate you feedback and will explore more ways to engage our Holland Bloorview community within the hospital during the next games.