Olympics, Disabilities and Inclusion
There are many legends around the origins of the Olympics. But the main idea was countries and individuals would meet every 4 years and set aside conflicts–and this shared experience would lead toward greater understanding and fewer conflicts.
Many believe the ancient Olympic games began with a foot race.
The 2012 Olympics were held in London, England. And, a footrace is not so simple. Turns out, the definition of a “foot” was a source of conflict.
Even with later personal tragedy, The Olympics story of Oscar Pistorius from South Africa is an inspirational lesson about the inclusion of people with disabilities.
Check out this video, “The fastest man with no legs” who uses his “blade runners” to race in the finals of the Olympics.
Yes, he races in the segregated Paralympics, but also in the inclusive regular Olympics.
This is an example of inclusion, self-advocacy, the power of a supportive family and an exceptional adult with disabilities.
I think this is also an excellent example of what the Olympic Spirit is all about. The Greek founders might never have envisioned this sort of story, but I’ll bet they were cheering up on Mount Olympus as Oscar became one of the fastest runners in the world.
If you have feet, you have tendons and muscles which give a “spring” to your step.
If you don’t have feet, you … what—sit at home? OR…
You only have the choice of a segregated Special Olympics or Parolympics event?
As Dennis Burger says, “I always think it’s ironic when officials claim an unfair advantage by a guy with a prosthetic device. Go Oscar!”
Lessons from the Olympics
Why is it that those of us who would never spend 10 seconds playing or watching ping pong, or skeet shooting, or footraces… voluntarily devote our precious time to these events on TV?
Why is it we choose to root for one team or one person?
With all the important events happening in the world, why would the evening news start out with the country’s Olympic medal count?
What is the magic that draws our attention?
I think the answer has to do with the concepts of “Us” and “Them.” The answer is rooted in our deep psychological need to belong.
We can wonder about the concepts of nationalism but like it or not, we are part of a tribe, a nation, we are part of “Us.”
And when the collected ego of our nation wins, we win.
So we say, “Go USA” or “Go England” or “Go Canada” when we really don’t care one bit about archery or who can do the backstroke.
In Maslow’s famous “hierarchy of needs” belonging and having people who care about you is critical to survival–more important than how many skills you have or self-actualization. Sometimes this means being part of a tribe, sometimes being part of a family, sometimes part of a church, school or … nation.
Or, sometimes sharing a bond with someone with a disability.
So when we hear about a runner who uses blades because he has no feet, or a woman who only has one hand and is a table tennis champion—suddenly we care about them.
We switch our allegiance and transfer all our goodwill to these courageous individuals because they have a disability and are part of our TEAM INCLUSION. We don’t know them personally, we aren’t a part of their country, but they are part of our heart.
They prove that all our daily advocacy efforts are worth it. That the dream of inclusion can be real.
They are changing the attitudes and social consciousness of a whole generation.
And it doesn’t matter if they are from South Africa or Poland or anywhere—they belong to us and our vision of an inclusive world.
I’m hoping you and members of our Climbing Every Mountain community will also share stories of belonging, inclusion, the Olympics, and building communities.
Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward
All my best,
See Aimee Mullen in a previous Olympics.
Do the Words “Disability” and “Handicapped” mean the same thing
Aaron’s Inclusion on the Junior High Track Team
The Olympics are always a fun time. Seeing country vs. country, people with almost unfathomable talent. We know the best runners or the best swimmers in the world. But then we see someone we’re not used to seeing, and we notice they have a disability. Like you said, we want to root for them. I believe this is so because we realize we really can do anything we set our minds too. We think, if someone who does not have legs can get up, stop feeling sorry for them-self, and walk we can pick our self up too. Then we see him or her running, not just running without actual legs, but running in the Olympics, the competition for the best of the best, we suddenly realize our life is not bad at all. If he can run in the Olympics, I can do something I too am scared to do. They’re inspiring none the less.
Lexi, beautiful thoughts and beautifully written. You have a real talent.
That is a really incredible story! It would be hard to imagine all the hard work and effort he put into going to the Olympics. And it’s just wouldn’t be right if he wasn’t allowed to participate in the Olympics. I think it’s neat how on a national level he is able to have a voice for inclusion.
Can’t wait to hear the new stories from the Olympics of 2014.
This is amazing. his courage and desire to make his dreams come true. I find it crazy that people can blame his prosthetic legs for him being fast. it is too crazy to think that he has trained long and hard to get where he is today. It’s inspiring to hear his story and know that anything is possible. and I agree that this is another step is the right direction that inclusion is real!
Hi Christina, I think it is amazing too. I wonder if the news will share some of the great stories from this Olympics. Did you read the blog about Aimee Mullins? There really are some wonderful people out there. We each do our small bit and it will make a difference.
He is inspiring. I also admire his parents. Can you imagine giving permission to have your baby son’s feet amputated and seeing them in the waste basket? They must have been amazing to encourage him to take risks.
While watching the 2012 summer Olympics, I was extremely intrigued and inspired by Oscar Pistorius’s story. This blog post and video relating Oscar’s story to inclusion, self-advocacy, and the importance of having a supportive family is extremely powerful. In the video, Oscar explains that he doesn’t think that he is disabled and he likes to focus on his many abilities instead of his one disability. This is an extremely important statement because it shows that Oscar is courageous and determined to use his abilities and talents to work hard and to better himself and the world. His brother explained in the video that Oscar never would let his disability hold him back from anything. Oscar was always trying harder to keep up with his brother or to beat his brother which shows that Oscar is always determined to do his best no matter what the circumstances. He also does not let his one disability take away from his innumerable abilities. This is a great trait to have and I think it is very important that through Oscar being in the Olympics and showing inclusion and proving that he can compete in the Olympics, many people can be inspired to always try their best and to never give up even if an obstacle seems to be in the way of success.
I like this post, enjoyed this one thanks for putting up. “No trumpets sound when the important decisions of our life are made. Destiny is made known silently.” by Agnes de Mille.
I didn’t see much of the Olympics but when saw Oscar Pistorius running, I have to admit I was surprised. That he could run that fast to qualify and that they let him in seems like it was a huge win. I’m glad he got so much coverage, he was certainly portrayed in the press I read as a hero and a champion.
Oscar really was one of the stars of the Olympics. I’ll bet he inspired many young people with all sorts of emotional and physical issues.
I love the way you wrote this article. This is wonderful. I do hope you intend to write more of these types of articles. Thank you for this interesting content!
Thanks Jordan, the Olympics gives us new heroes and ideas.
Hi5! Sharing with ‘disAbilityVOICE – Disability Rights Advocate’ community at http://www.facebook.com/DisabilityVOICE
Welcome Brenda, Hi 5 back at you. It’s so nice to have something good to celebrate.