BY CAM TAIT, Edmonton Sun
We are oh, so close. But we’re not there yet.
The images, if we think about them in technicolor, would be extremely powerful. Athletes would be seen in a collective group, showcasing their talent and God-given skills in the same country, the same city, the same venue at — here comes the green straw to stir the drink — the same time.
Imagine: curlers getting their medals placed around the neck — able-bodied and then athletes with physical disabilities within minutes, if not seconds of each other.
Or, the medal ceremony for hockey, with able-bodied players and then sledge hockey at the same time.
Perhaps the best image we can hold in our mind’s eye is the iconic closing ceremonies, seeing able-bodied athletes and disabled athletes walking and wheeling in harmony, side by side, smiling, waving to the crowd. Some could be national heroes, because of their tremendous effort resulting in them winning a medal.
Others, well, they won’t return home as medalists, but their sporting prowess is duly recognized as being one of the very best in the world.
People are people.
Writers are writers.
Athletes are athletes … whether they run, wheel, sledge, ski, sit, stand or whatever other position sport offers.
So why can’t we view and celebrate their accomplishments together?
On Sunday, the closing ceremonies of the Paralympic Games are scheduled from Pyeongchang. The event is not even a month after the Winter Olympics — they were held Feb. 25.
Sport for people with disabilities began as a rehabilitation tool and was highly successful. To its credit, it rolled out of medical facilities into gymnasiums, into hockey arenas, curling rinks and many other community facilities.
Sport for people with disabilities shifted from an “isn’t it nice they have something to do” mindset to a “wow! What a great athletic performance” praise.
Thirty years ago, in 1988 in Seoul, Korea, a monumental thing took place: the summer Paralympics were held in the same city as the summer Olympics. Since then, the Olympics and Paralympics have been held in the same city.
It was ground-breaking, indeed. Much of the credit needs to be shone on Bob Steadward of Edmonton, who dedicated his life to sport for people with disabilities. Steadward is regarded as an extraordinary visionary and was rightly named the founding president of the International Paralympic Committee in 1989.
We need to continue the legacy.
We need to encourage the International Olympic Committee and the IPC to work even closer and have the Olympics and Paralympics at the same time.
It would make a profound statement on inclusion … and, how sport brings all of us closer, train harder and envision success.
Physical characteristics, really, shouldn’t have anything to do with separating the two.
Sport also creates a battle cry, a creed of competitiveness, which raises our expectations, anticipations and the magical part of the human spirit that pushes to the next level.
Yes, we are oh so close.
And, yes … we can do this.