"..a bardy view!"

The Chinese Paralympic Paradox….

IPC_01_Institutional_RGB_210mmA nation which has little regard for human rights, which has limited disability legislation in place, which tends to hide it's less fortunate subjects away, and where the average able-bodied person ignores those less-abled who can often be found begging on the streets of Beijing, or forgotten in the rural communities where they have to fend for themselves, is walking away with gold medals at the London Paralympics.

Why is this? And does it show that the Chinese are embracing the disabled with equal rights?

Does it mean they are becoming a much more caring government?

Or does it mean that they just want to win – to be the best – at all costs?

In 2008 China topped the Paralympic table with 89 gold medals amongst a total 211.

Back then, as the hosts, they automatically qualified for every event, yet failed to qualify for five of the 20 Paralympic sports in London in 2012. In 2008 China had 332 athletes. In London they have 282 – half of which are debutants – first timers at the event.

According to the Bangkok Post, half of the team is made up of ex-armed forces personnel. Yet, according to state officials, disabled people have more opportunity to take part in sports than ever before in the last 25 years. It's propaganda of course, because most of the athletes train at the China Disability Sports Training Centre in Beijing. Built just prior to the 2008 games, and now lauded as the world's largest training venue for athletes with disabilities.

In 1996 they were in ninth place with 16 gold medals (behind the Netherlands) with a total of 39 medals overall, way behind the USA’s 158; Germany's 149; Great Britain's 122; Australia's 106; France's 95, and Canada's 70.

In 2000 at the Sidney Games they won 34 gold:  6th place behind the USA, Spain, Canada, GB and Australia. In 2004 in the Athens games, China topped the table with 63 gold medals.

China won the bid to host the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games on July 31st 2001. Three years later, they topped the table in Athens with 63 gold.

In three years they had doubled their Sidney gold medal total. This would clearly indicate that the Chinese were embracing the disabled as equals, that they were providing opportunities, that they were presenting a new and caring face, where every citizen was an equal. Pull the other one – it's got bells on!  China is in it to win it.

It's estimated that there are 60 million disabled people in China equivalent to the total population of the United Kingdom. 30 years ago they were classified as "can fei" meaning "the handicapped and useless".

Today, the term is "can ji ren" meaning "persons with disabilities". It took the successful Olympic bid of 2001 to change the vocabulary. But did it change the mind-set? Did it change the law?

As the most populated nation on the planet, it's not surprising that they have such a high number of disabled people. Yet, is it not strange, that within three years between 2001 and 2004 they suddenly found their para-Olympians  winning gold medals way over and above the previous winners like the USA?

Does this mean that China has embraced human rights and equality, providing with no expense spared the care and opportunities for their less fortunate people, or just that they know how to use and abuse their human resources?

I commend the Chinese athletes who are winning medals at the Paralympics, just like I commend all the other disabled competitors from around the world. This is one competition that wouldn't cause me distress to see Team GB not win. This is a competition that’s really not about winning, but the taking part; about personal achievement and dignity; self-respect and pride.

It's about overcoming adversity, conquering disability, proving ability, and showing that everyone is human, has feelings, emotions, desires and dreams, regardless of their physical or mental circumstances. It is the great leveller, it is to be human.

Does China understand that? What do you think?


September 3, 2012 - Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Events, London, Olympic Games, Politics, Sport, Travel, United Kingdom | , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. You must have read my mind as I was watching the athletes last night and I’m not ashamed to say, with tears pouring down my cheeks. Here I was a deaf person for the last forty years, and I looked at these people and said to my myself;
    “Now just what disability would you like to have?”
    I’m positive you understand what I mean. The other thing to remember is the able bodied people who give their time, their knowledge, their encouragement and expertise in training and assisting the disabled. What a wonderful world.
    It really puts politicians in their place doesn’t it?


    Comment by spookmoor | September 4, 2012 | Reply

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