With the conclusion of the 2012 London Olympics, the global sporting community – between August 29 and September 9 – will once again focus their attention upon the city for the 2012 Summer Paralympics. Having had an outstanding showing in Beijing four years ago, the Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC) would be sending a strong delegation of athletes to the event, in a bid to repeat that unprecedented performance. However, while steps have been taken to improve the status quo, I am of the opinion that the Singapore National Paralympic Council (SNPC), along with relevant stakeholders, can do significantly more to raise the profile of Singapore’s paralympians.
While I concur that more can be done to reconcile the disparity of the cash awards handed out to athletes, disabled or not, I think it is equally – if not more – important to raise public recognition and awareness of their accomplishments. Every four years when the Paralympics comes around, responses by the administration towards criticisms – from the lack of coverage to the value of the Athlete’s Achievement Award (AAA) vis-à-vis their sporting counterparts – feel like woeful knee-jerks. As a start, collective cognisance and appreciation within national communities would render it more plausible to gain traction for greater financial and manpower support for the paralympic movement in Singapore.
On its website, the SNPC has done a decent job of listing the participating athletes in this year’s London Paralympics, as well as the publication of their corresponding competition dates and timings; nevertheless, more can be done to go beyond mere descriptions. For a start, it would be great to read more about their backgrounds, motivations, and aspirations et cetera, through brief biographies, and – by leveraging on social media platforms – through video features, as well as individual interviews. Interactive elements on the website would allow Singaporeans to pen well-wishes and messages to the competing athletes. Education institutions and students can be involved in this manner. For instance, British public-service television broadcaster Channel 4 has done a tremendous task of producing wonderful clips on YouTube, with a specific emphasis on the sportspersons and their respective triumphs.
More effective media coverage would drum up excitement – and support – for the Paralympics, and allow Singaporeans to gain a deeper comprehension of these sporting representatives. On the newspapers, interviews can be conducted with the Singapore contingent as a lead-up to the event in a week’s time, and articles can be published to highlight unconventional precision sports such as Boccia. On the television, this time round, there should be more coverage of the competition events; the programmes should not be highlights per se, but should also include live feed of Team Singapore in action, as we did when our Olympians were competing a few weeks ago. Our Paralympians have put in the same amount of hard work on the training ground, so why should they deserve anything less?
These national competitors may not crave for such exposure, but I believe it would be difficult to disagree that they deserve their spot in the limelight. More importantly, this increased prominence – as well as their progressive achievements – would make it easier for their juniors and associations to continue flying the flag for Singapore at the Paralympics.