After a summer saturated with sport – Euro 2012, Wimbledon and the Olympics to name but a few- the British public could be forgiven for adopting a lack-luster attitude to the Paralympic Games
However, as sporting events go, the Paralympics has refused to be ignored. The whole country has been swept away by feats of seemingly superhuman strength and physical prowess as well as the inspiring and sometimes heartbreaking stories behind the athletes competing. Far from being just an extension of the Olympics, the Paralympics has produced just as many, if not more, nail biting moments as well as new sporting heroes.
Ellie Simmonds has emerged as one of the Games’ biggest stars after winning two gold medals and picking up a bronze yesterday in what was said to be her weakest event- the 50 metres. The future looks bright for the swimmer, who at just 17 years old, has transcended the Paralympian label and become a household name.
Whilst individuals always shine, the Paralympic Games 2012 event, as a whole will be remembered as one that smashed records, challenging what we thought was possible. The GB team alone has set 15 records this games, a sizeable contribution to what promises to be the most record-breaking Paralympic Games ever staged. At the halfway point, 228 records have been broken, compared with 339 in total at the Beijing event in 2008.
Far from going unnoticed, the achievements of these athletes are being lapped up by the nation. Channel 4 coverage of the event has steadily risen, peaking at 4.4 million viewers on Sunday for Alan Oliviera’s shock defeat of favourite Oscar Pistorius the 200-metre track event. The Paralympics is claiming a considerable chunk of social media content too, with 12% of all social media messages currently mentioning the topic and 200,000 tweets a day including the tag “paralympics”.
While of course it’s fantastic that the event has been so entertaining, what really matters is what happens to the public’s attention and interest after the Games finish. Hopefully, the legacy left behind will be pure and simple: sport for everyone.