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Opinion

Tokyo Paralympics: The games New South Wales and Victoria need right now

Dylan Alcott (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Expert
22nd August, 2021
3

The Tokyo Olympics dragged me and many others through the early phases of the latest east-coast lockdowns.

Australian athletes produced in spades, gathering a medal haul of which to be proud, and there were touching moments on a daily basis that enabled many of us to momentarily forget about what was steadily growing outside the safety of our dwellings in eastern Australia.

Mates shared medals, the Boomers finally climbed their Everest and a handful of Australian female swimmers inspired the nation in a week of action in the pool that was potentially as brilliant as we have seen.

Sadly, when the curtain came down on Japan’s wonderful attempt to host a successful, entertaining and visually appealing games despite the tragedy of mostly empty stadiums and the subsequent financial damage, the stark reality for many Australians came well into focus.

Even with growing vaccination rate, New South Wales’s long haul back to freedom appears likely to take somewhere in the months, Victoria sits on a knife’s edge and Queensland is fighting tooth and nail to eliminate what looked like a potentially serious outbreak a few weeks back.

Nothing could be more timely, laden with perspective or simply patriotically entertaining than a 12-day Paralympics that will provide some mental respite from what has become the scariest of times on the eastern seaboard.

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Beginning on Wednesday and following what looms as an emotional Tuesday night opening ceremony where the theme will be ‘We Have Wings’, the competition will begin in a flurry. As was the case during the Olympics, thanks to the friendly time zone and increased number of viewing hours available to the millions confined to their homes, Aussies will lean on our Paralympians as a crutch, looking for sources of inspiration, hope and courage to perhaps add some extra starch to their own fortitude.

For many on the east coast and with worsening COVID-19 figures emerging each morning, such things are tough to locate and act on right now.

Like many, I’ll be battling to keep a year 12 student upbeat, calm and focussed during the most bizarre experience of sitting examinations online. Others will struggle daily with unpaid invoices and a business boarded up and not permitted to operate. All of us will crave ways to alleviate the social toll of distancing and the absence of so much human contact that normally sustains us on a daily basis.

On Tuesday night and somewhat ironically many Australians will engage with the notion of wings and the use of them to rise above challenges, circumstances and restrictions, knowing that for the short-term future their own wings have been well and truly clipped by the necessary lockdown.

Yet, as is always the case, sport will transcend the mundane, the literal and the sometimes drab earthly realities of human existence. With so many under financial, emotional and professional stress, attempting to keep families positive, together and functioning, the games will provide, at least for a short time, a lifeline.

Not everyone enjoys sport – frankly, I find that odd. However, the Paralympics are something far greater, poignant and powerful.

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Despite the entire event striving tirelessly to remove stigma, discrimination and a lack of education that still hampers the lives of people living with disabilities around the globe. The realities of the competitors, the images they create and their unique stories all make the Paralympics so much more than a gathering of athletes.

It is that fact and the emotion created by it that will have Australians cheering, often with an emotionally moist eye.

Big names like tennis superstar Dylan Alcott will no doubt fuel many of the headlines, as will inspiring swimmers Ahmed Kelly and Grant ‘Scooter’ Patterson. Yet there are 176 other Australian athletes, among whom there will no doubt be some new inspirational heroes to which Australia is about to be introduced.

Australia’s Paralympic website profiles each athlete, and their backstories are simply powerful, stunning and often harrowing. The broadcasters will need no encouragement to delve into those, and while at times such efforts can appear forced and insincere, there will be no danger of that occurring during the Paralympics.

Hopefully the Australians can match the level of Olympic success. However, their greatest achievement could well be the joy, distraction and inspiration they provide for Australians battling a variety of challenges brought on by the lingering pandemic.

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It will no doubt be a great games and one for which so many of us will thankful. It has come at the most perfect of times.

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