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A province’s brave decision for the disabled

Posted September. 06, 2017 08:52,   

Updated September. 06, 2017 10:15


The 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics is just five months away. And the Paralympics begins on March 9 next year, in 12 days after the Olympics finish. The Winter Olympics have drawn little attention, not to mention the Paralympics. Still, there are people who do not know about the Paralympics at all.

So was Choi Chang-hyun, a film student who produced several short films. He got interested in the Paralympics in March last year as he watched a lecture video of Stella Young (1982-2014), an Australian comedian and journalist. Young tried to correct the wrong perception of society towards disabled people, saying, “Disabled people are not to inspire non-disabled people. Their achievement must be valued as it is.” Choi says he got a perspective on disabled people from Young, and is currently creating a documentary film “Parallel.” The theme of the film is the integration of the Olympics and the Paralympics. It means holding a sporting event for both disabled and non-disabled people starting from the opening ceremony to make the Olympics a genuine “festival for people around the world.”

If the total number of medals is counted together, disabled athletes will attract much more attention, which is no easy task. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) should be on the same page, but it is practically impossible. Let me take an example. The IOC sent an official document to the Olympic candidates' bidding committees for the 2018 Olympics, such as Pyeongchang and Munich, in the run-up to the IOC session in July 2011 that “each country has no requirement to host the Paralympics until the IOC makes a decision.” While the IOC stipulated that it would host the Paralympics and provide it with a similar level of support in the Sydney Accord with the IPC in 2000, it sent a “warning” out of the concern that the share of the IOC would diminish due to increasing sponsorships for the Paralympics from global companies. Though the warning became meaningless due to the surging criticism of the international community, it was clearly a case that showed the IOC and the IPC are not in the same interest. Some in the IPC claimed that the Paralympics should be held independently but it was not accepted. Few cities would want to host the Paralympics alone.


The National Para Games to be held in North Chungcheong Province from next Friday will be a landmark event in sports history of disabled people in Korea, given that it will be held ahead of the Korean National Sports Festival. It has changed the order this time. North Chungcheong Province readily accepted the proposal from the Korea Paralympic Committee that if the National Para Games are held later in October, it would increase injury of disabled athletes who are vulnerable to cold weather and have an impact on their performance. There was a strong backlash from organizations that host events for non-disabled people, saying that why “disabled people” dare to come first.


The status of the Olympics and the Paralympics is incomparable in Korea as it is seen in the broadcast time slots. So is the National Para Games. It was just a subordinate. With the end of the Korean National Sports Festival, it became an event just for them. If it is held ahead of the bigger event for non-disabled people, it would attract more attention. Putting the Para Games first does not demote the “ranking” of the sports festival. It is just the “order.” Hopefully, North Chungcheong Province’s decision, which surprised even disabled athletes, could be the first step to make it sustainable and integrate the two sporting events into one.