We Are Athletes : Paralympics

In 10 days, the Paralympic Games begin in Rio.  At the time of writing, only 12% of tickets for the games have been sold. In such an instance, one would have thought that any publicity would be good publicity.

Enter Vogue magazine, Brazil edition and their “We Are All Paralympians” campaign.  The supposedly throught provoking campaign features able-bodied actors Paulo Vilhena and Cleo Pires with digitally removed limbs and, in Paulo’s case, a digitally added prosthetic leg.

#SomosTodosParalímpicos: para atrair visibilidade aos Jogos Paralímpicos e ressaltar a relevância dos paratletas brasileiros no panorama do esporte nacional, @cleopires_oficial e Paulo Vilhena (@vilhenap) aceitaram o convite para serem embaixadores do Comitê Paralímpico Brasileiro e estrelam a campanha Somos Todos Paralímpicos. Concebido pelos atores com o apoio do @ocpboficial e dos atletas, com direção criativa de @ccarneiro, fotografia de @andrepassos e beleza de @carolalmeidaprada, o anúncio traz Cleo na pele de @bruninha_alexandre, paratleta do tênis de mesa, e Paulo, de @renatoleite10, da categoria vôlei sentado. Os ingressos estão à venda em ingressos.rio2016.com. Vogue mostra os bastidores do shooting com o quarteto no link da bio. #voguenasparalimpiadas

A photo posted by Vogue Brasil (@voguebrasil) on

I’m not known for my marketing ability at work having dismissed two popular products but some things I do get.  Change the colour of a label and people will think a product is “premium”, for example.  However, I don’t get the thought behind either the slogan or the use of the models (even if the latter makes sense alongside the former).

Are Vogue Brasil implying that able-bodied people make disabled people than people with disabilities?

I’m not a paralympian.  I don’t personally know anyone who is.  To say we all are feels somewhat dismissive of the achievements and skills of the competitors taking part.  What’s more, having been born able-bodied if not somewhat uncoordinated and less than graceful, it’s probably going to take some major life changing event to grant me the opportunity to compete in either version of the Olympics.

Sport has a great opportunity, more so than probably any other medium, to bring people together under a set of defined rules aimed at providing entertainment.  It does, however, have a particular anomaly that I’ve always found curious.

Take football (soccer), cricket or rugby in Britain.  If I were to talk about the Welsh football team, the English cricket team (itself an anomaly for featuring an array of Welsh, Irish and South African players!) or the Scottish rugby team, people’s first thought will be towards the men’s able-bodied teams.  Similarly, a netball team is comprised of women.

We still talk about sports as belonging to one sex or another.  A team competing against that general identification is differentiated by adding the relevant “men’s” or “women’s”, but that’s only when broadcasters, media or commentators think it necessary.

The Paralympics have long fought for parity with the Olympics.  Maybe, rather than just generating publicity, we could begin to view those taking part as athletes before we view them as people with disabilities.  It’s too late for these games, but if sport really wants to be as inclusive as it believes, maybe we could start using gender or ability only as a differentiator of who is taking part, rather than who should.

Here we are
Sharing our lives
We made it through
The good and bad times
And still we stand
With hope in our hearts
No matter what
We will play our part
And now we’ve come so far
One chance to touch a star
Go higher and higher

Find your guiding inspiration
In a place where dreams are made
With a lifetime’s preparation
It’s no time to be afraid
Put our differences behind us
While we shine like the sun
See what we’ve all become
Together we are one

Deep inside your heart and soul
You’ve worked so hard
To reach your goal
With every step
With every breath
You gave it all
Till there was nothing left
Seek out the strength to win
No thoughts of giving in
Go higher and higher

Find your guiding inspiration
In a place where dreams are made
With a lifetime’s preparation
It’s no time to be afraid
Put our differences behind us
While we shine like the sun
See what we’ve all become
Together we are one

Find your guiding inspiration
In a place where dreams are made
With a lifetime’s preparation
It’s no time to be afraid
Put our differences behind us
While we shine like the sun
See what we’ve all become
Together we are one

See what we’ve all become
Together we are one

Together We Are One by Delta Goodrem (written for the Sydney Olympics)

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