Category: World Sports Created on Wednesday, 05 September 2012 07:59 Published Date Written by GNA Hits: 648
London, Sept 4, GNA – The old adage “travel and see” can easily be brushed aside on any day until the recent Paralynpic Games in London, which has attracted over 2.5 million fans each day to watch the events at the Olympic Stadium in London.
Indeed until one participates in the Paralympic Games, even as a sports journalist it will be highly impossible to develop any level of appreciation for Para-Sports.
Para-sports is indeed a serious business in developed countries, possibly due to well developed policies on disability, which grants disability persons equal rights in every field, with clearly defined legislative and protective measures.
Unfortunately, social and cultural beliefs in mostly Africa and other third world countries, most times give the impression that disabilities are as a result of curses or sins committed by persons with disability or their parents and this coupled with economic difficulties in the developing world, have denied especially Ghana the opportunity of exploring opportunities in disabled sports without effective policies on disability.
Disabled sports in the developed world, from the little observation made so far at the Paralympic Games is indeed a major tool for social integration, as people with disability engage in almost all the Olympic sporting disciplines.
One may indeed be tempted to say disable sports is more challenging due to the nature of disability of the persons even though they seem to excite sports fans even more than the main Olympics, hence the reason; millions of people throng the Olympic Stadium each day. .
Through the disabled sports, the advanced countries have been able to make international heroes and heroines out of their citizens with Elleanor Simmons of Great Britian, as one of the world's best swimmers catching the headlines of major newspapers in London, South Africa’s Oscar Pistorious, as a famous athlete, China’s Powerlifter Liu Lei and many more have become hot cakes for international advertising agencies, hence one can imagine the economic benefits and the social impact on their respective countries.
One will have no option than to admire the care and attention provided disabled persons in the advanced countries as they are not considered as outcast or a nuisance to society as is done in Ghana and some parts of Africa.
On the contrary, Ghana and other Africa countries are still stuck in socio-cultural beliefs that condemns the disabled to his or her fate, hence the inability to develop disabled sports to a higher level and be competitive and this is evidenced in the low number of African participants in the Games, even though this is not to suggest that we have less number or no persons with disability on the continent who are endowed with sporting talents that can be developed and tapped for national representation on the international scene.
Ghana abounds in a lot of talents; from the blind to amputees, to “dwarfs” and even people with mental challenges, who when identified, trained and groomed with the right policies on disability, can be worthy sports men and women and highly ranked ambassadors.
On a rather interesting note, the country's sports laws seems not have made enough provisions on disability sports, whilst none of the political parties see the need for an elaborate manifesto on sports development, let alone to consider the disability aspect.
Inspite of the socio-cultural challenges and economic difficulties, disability sports can still be explored to the fullest potential not only in Powerlifting, Cycling and Athletics, even though I share the same opinion with the President of the National Paralympic Committee (NPC), Bishop Cornelius Adja Cofie, that disabled sports is growing basically on the grounds that Ghana competed and qualified the four athletes to participate in the event as against previous participation on wild cards..
I also share the opinion that the disabled sporting industry needs further diversification to include other sporting disciplines so that Ghana can increase her participants at the Games and make use of the 'gold mine' that is far from been explored.
It is in this vein, that there is the need for all stakeholders under the National Spots Associations (NSA) in the face of the challenges to help develop disabled components of their respective disciplines and organize national competitions for persons with disability at least once in a year, whilst efforts are made in areas with a relative advantage to unearth talents and groom them for international events.
This, without doubt, will be the surest way to increase our medal haul at least at the All Africa Games and the Commonwealth Games as well as the Paralympic Games just like South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt and a few other African countries.
It is a fact that sports as an industry is under-funded in Ghana and Africa due to competing developmental demands from all sectors, but an improvement in budgetary allocation and commitment on the part of leadership; National Sports Authority (NSA), Ministry of Youth and Sports (MYS) and indeed the government could go a long way to help rectify the situation if issues of disability are of supreme concern to all.
One cannot digest these issues without mentioning the involvement of corporate bodies, who have over the years developed several Corporate Social Responsibility (CRS) strategies in several areas including persons with disability, but are yet to explore the opportunities in Disabled Sports - a global money raking industry and a major advertising opportunity considering the fact the 2012 Paralympics Games is being sponsored by multinationals such as BMW and McDonalds among others.
It is an area in which the corporate bodies can easily explore, especially when disable sports has been a major source of medals for Ghana at the All Africa Games and Commonwealth Games since 2003 and the crowning of Ajara Mohammed as the 2011 Sports Personality of the Year by the Sports Writers Association of Ghana (SWAG) is an ample evidence of opportunities in that field that give hope to medal haul for Ghana at international feats.
One can imagine the impact and a trickle-down effect of what 10,000 USD as the prize money for Ajara Mohammed for winning two gold medals at AAG can make on her and possible her dependants and other disabled persons who will then see her as a role model.
Para-Sports is indeed an unexplored area, in terms of benefits of social integration of people with disability, it is also a forum that heavily deals with social vices such as petty stealing and begging on the streets among others as well as the global recognition and economic impacts it comes with, especially for the participants who will feel they are part of the society and must be given the due recognition when it matters.
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