Paralympic Games 2012

Logo of the International Committee for the Paralympic Games. (Photo: LOCOG)
The best Paralympic Games of all times: the organizers of the London games have set new standards. (Photo: LOCOG)

A very impressive closing ceremony brought the Paralympic Games 2012 to an end. During 10 days, London celebrated the world games and set new standards. Read on to find out more about the best Paralympic Games ever.

The spectators

Sportsmen and women alike, as well as organizers and spectators all agreed on one thing: these were the best Paralympic Games of all times. This conviction arose not only out of the outstanding performances of all participants, but was first and foremost the result of the enthusiastic atmosphere prevalent in all stadiums, at venues and around the whole city.

Day by day, 80 000 thousand spectators filled the Olympic stadium until no single seat was left empty, and were so loud in a way that is rarely heard at a sports event. All together, 2.7 million tickets were sold. 180 000 spectators found their way to the different venues and showed not only a great enthusiasm but also great understanding.

Portrait of Lord Sebastian Coe
Former world-class athlete Lord Sebastian Coe, chairman of the Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. (Photo: LOCOG)

Matter of discussion

During the Games, much was said about the outstanding performances as well as the incredible atmosphere. But the nature of the event also made the headlines. Most of all, athletes with prosthetic legs, which enable constantly improving running performances, were at the centre of attention.  Oscar Pistorius alias "Blade Runner", from South Africa, who with his carbon foot has aroused a high interest for years, was the subject of many a heated discussion. He contested the result of the 200 metres race, which earned Brazilian Alan Oliveira his gold medal, asserting that his running blades were too high. These comments earned him much critic.

Also, on the day of the 100 meters final race, Wojtek Czyz accused his team-mate Heinrich Popow of "technical doping". According to him, Popow had received a knee joint from Otto Bock, to which only he had had a chance to get accustomed to, as he had received it before all other athletes.

These discussions also point to the fact that, at least in the top sports athletic or cycling, the trend goes towards an increased professionalism. Karl Quade, German Chef de mission, also confirms: "Sport practiced by people with disabilities is becoming more and more specialised. There are more professional sportsmen than before, and the material is also improving".

The most emotional moments

Sport is closely related to emotions. In regards to sports for people with disabilities, this holds perhaps even more truth. All disabled sportsmen and women have had, at some time or other in their lives, the experience of a stroke of fate. From that moment, until the glory of the Paralympic Games, it is a long way, marked by many hurdles, efforts and renunciations. The joy of achieving one's goals is just as enormous as the deception of having failed to reach them. The following athletes stand for the experiences of the more than 4200 participants who took part in the Games:

Gold, silver and bronze medals at the Paralympic Games 2012.
China won most medals of the Paralympic Games. However, more than medals will be remembered. (Photo: LOCOG)

Yohansson Nascimento

The Brazilian sprinter Yohannson Nascimento showed in a concrete way how joy and pain can be closely related. He first proposed to his girlfriend on television, and then won the gold medal for the 200 meters race. Another great moment followed while running the 100m race; an injury suffered early in the race did not stop him from running it to the end.  Fighting back his tears, he pulled himself to the line and reached the goal within 90 seconds, accompanied by a standing ovation of the crowd of 80'000 people.

Alessandro Zanardi

A former Formula-1 driver, Alessandro Zanardi lost both his legs in an accident, at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz in 2001. In the meantime, even though he has participated in car races, he has, for the past two years, dedicated himself to the Paralympic discipline of handbiking. He won the gold medal in the time trial as well as in the road race, and silver in the mixed team relay. His emotions are expressed in a Tweet which he posted following his performance: "I wish I knew the word to express all that has touched me".

Jochen Wollmert

Jochen Wollmert, a German table tennis player, won for the third time in his life the gold medal at the Paralympic Games. He won in the final of class 7 against Will Bayley, a local matador. This is not, however, what made the headlines. Rather, it was the gesture he made towards his inconsolable adversary, which showed with how much fairness the Paralympic Games were conducted. He went over to Bailey, who was afflicted by tears, set him straight and stretched his hand in a gesture of victory.

The challenges that remain

The Paralympic Games in London have set new standards for all future similar events. The sports performances were good like never before, the interest of the spectators was immense, never before was there so much respect and admiration towards the disabled athletes. These are requirements against which the organizers of the Paralympics 2016 in Rio will be measured. It is to be hoped that sports for the disabled will not become once more a marginal theme and fall into oblivion.

 

Text:  Patrick Gunti - 09/2012
Photos: London 2012 / LOCOG