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You’d be forgiven for thinking this.

Paralympic ticket sales are poor, ticket prices are much lower, there’s significantly less coverage on television, you don’t hear of anyone staying up half the night to watch the Paralympic events, there are fewer world-famous Paralympian athletes – and certainly fewer with mass-market appeal than the likes of Usain Bolt. The Paralympic Games simply don’t appear to be as celebrated as their Olympic counterparts.

This is, in my opinion, not fair at all.

We are being directly influenced by the media and their message. And their message is this: the Paralympics are not as important and not as exciting as the Olympic Games. Let me put it like this. Sky had six or so pop-up channels to broadcast events for the Olympic Games, in addition to coverage on Prime and the regular four Sky Sports channels. For the Paralympic Games there are none. To watch coverage of the Paralympic Games on television, you have to wait for coverage on just TVNZ and on Duke.

But it’s unfair to only blame the media. Why is this? Well, broadcasting is paid for by advertisers. If no one watches the channels, advertisers – fast food, cars, supermarkets, pet food, insurance companies, clothing stores – won’t pay to put their adverts on television. Because the more people who watch the channel, more people will shop at their stores or buy their products. For advertisers, this is called ‘return on investment’: they pay, for example, $100,000 in advertising in the hope that they will get $200,000 of business.

More people watch popular programmes. So these popular programmes attract more advertising, which in turn pays for more channels or for more television programmes. But because the Paralympics aren’t as popular as the Olympic Games, advertisers won’t pay to advertise and so there are fewer channels to broadcast those Games. This in turn means that fewer people watch them, which means they become even less popular, and ultimately those athletes receive less funding. It goes round in circles…

The remarkable athletes who participate in the Paralympic Games have to overcome much more than just being skilled in their sports. They don’t need to be disadvantaged further by those who pay to have their events televised. The Paralympics deserves a much wider audience: their stories, achievements and courage are inspirational.

So why can’t it be the same for everyone? The message of ‘faster, higher, stronger’ applies to all athletes, not just to those who competed for the first 16 days at the Rio Olympics.

 

This is an opinion article, designed to promote critical discussion amongst your students:


Critical Thinking Challenges:

1. Why are the Olympic Games more popular than the Paralympic Games?

2. Do broadcasters show what we want, or do we only want what the broadcasters choose to show us?

3. Advertising pays for television. Should advertisers have some influence on what is being shown? After all, it’s their money that’s paying for it.

4. Michael Phelps has won the most Olympic medals by one person: 28. The most Paralympic medals won by a single person is also a swimmer, the American Trischa Zorn. She’s won 55 medals. Why is Phelps more famous?

5. Would you buy or not buy a particular product because of what it is associated with?


Practical Tasks:

1. inquire into the athletes who have represented New Zealand, or any other country, at the Paralympic Games.

2. Look at a list of the Paralympic sports. With the permission of your teacher, get your class to have a go at some of the less familiar ones.


Have Your Say:

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6 Responses

  1. i think the Paralympics are way more exciting because there are unique people doing amazing things.

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