Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Paralympics – a great inspiration

We are now being treated to the second half of a great summer of sport. The Paralympics, which has its origins in Stoke Mandeville in the UK and the previous London Games of 1948, has started with the same enthusiasm and support experienced for the London 2012 Olympics a few weeks ago. London 2012 I am sure will be remembered as much for raising levels of admiration for those with disability, as much as celebrating the triumphs of the able bodied Games.

Both sets of Games are united by the same aims of common endeavour and striving for excellence, and both rebuild our confidence in human achievement and the human spirit. But the Paralympics has an extra special dimension, of battling against the odds, of overcoming often immense obstacles and demonstrating tremendous determination. The backstories of some of the athletes are truly amazing.

The Paralympics tells us a lot about sustainability. It’s a showcase of the resilience and adaptability right at the heart of the sustainability theme. Individuals and families, often caught unaware, have had to cope with difficulties and limitations. They have had to find ways round what must seem like huge blocks in the road and have come out with something hugely positive.

Technology has played its part in liberating many participants, providing them with a mechanism to take part or improve their performance. Not all countries are equally advanced, but there is a sense of sharing expertise to raise the overall level. This is how sustainable development works – or should work – the sharing of ideas, pushing back boundaries, reducing limitations and finding innovative and imaginative solutions together. 

The Paralympics opening ceremony was as instructive as Danny Boyle’s awe-inspiring Olympic opener. The Paralympics’ curtain-raiser focused on enlightenment, enterprise, scientific advance and sensitive creativity. We all learnt something. We learnt that disability is a part of the rich diversity of human experience; we learn more about what success looks like, we learnt more about the world this generation and subsequent generations might try to create and we learnt a lot more about the power of the human spirit.

I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel very optimistic and more motivated to pass on a world in as good a condition as possible. Sustainability could do with being and appearing to be more positive, less grumpy. And it is a wonder how empowering putting so-called ‘disability’ centre-stage can be!

David Jackman