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The 2012 Paralympic Games

Dr Dinesh Sirisena, 02 Feb 2017

The 2012 Paralympic Games

The 2012 Paralympic Games

 Billed by the official television broadcaster as the main event following the Olympic Games ‘warm-up’, the Paralympics have surpassed all expectations and will undoubtedly change perceptions of disability sport in Great Britain. For most, it has been an awakening to what these athletes can achieve.

 Working at the games

 Having worked at both the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer, I gained an insight into the workings of an international sporting event.  While both were enjoyable, the Paralympics have been somewhat humbling when witnessing the adversities the athletes overcome in their bid to become champions.

 Based at the Olympic stadium during the Paralympic Games, I was exposed to challenges different to those at other multi-sport athletics events.  With the variety of track and field competitions occurring simultaneously, one is always conscious of giving all events equal attention.  This is challenging at best, but with additional functional impairments and variations within each category, these athletes were at greater risk of injury compared to able-bodied athletes.  Where this was particularly evident was during the F11/12 (visually impaired) triple jump event; unable to visualize where they were aiming, athletes would veer across the track and land dangerously close to the edge of the sandpit.  Additionally, athletes in the T31-37 events could have quite variable degrees of disability.  For some, simply completing the race was an achievement.

From the field of play perspective, it meant planning and rehearsing moulages to ensure our skills were kept sharp and that we worked seamlessly within the team.  Inventing worst-case scenarios, such as wheelchair crashes and extracting seated athletes, kept the training challenging and meant we were confident to deal with any situation. 

 In addition to the sport, I was privileged to be present at the opening and closing ceremonies.  Uninitiated in Paralympic ceremonies, it was particularly unnerving when fire and water hazards were mixed in with Paralympians and dancers somersaulting through the air.  Although it meant little respite for the medical team, it was a true spectacle and was memorable for all who witnessed it.

 The Legacy

With the catchphrase "inspire a generation", it is hoped that the 2012 Games will do exactly that.  Built on the pledge that sport can inspire, change and improve lives, an NHS document in 2009 stated that the Games would change health beliefs and practices by targeting unhealthy behavior and reducing levels of physical inactivity for Londoners and indeed nationwide.

An additional objective was to inspire the next generation of athletes.  By introducing families to sports, the Games brought to the limelight those events that are infrequently televised and made then centre-stage.  In doing so, it may have seeded the ideas for our future athletes.

Personal thoughts

Whether these ambitions will materialize depends on numerous factors beyond our control as doctors.  Nevertheless, many of my patients have witnessed the Paralympics and I will endeavor to build on this interest and enthusiasm towards sport, encouraging people to try to be more active in their daily routines.  Whether it will involve taking up a new sport or simply considering cycling to the station instead of taking the bus, I am optimistic that the Paralympics will have been a step in the right direction.

Irrespective of the legacy ambitions, the Paralympics have shown us what can be achieved despite adversity.  With personal sacrifice and self-belief, these athletes have brought their individuality and sport to the forefront of our consciousness, leaving little doubt that they are elite sports people and not simply disabled individuals.


This blog has previously been published with the BJSM.

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