Just back from watching Germany beat Australia at women’s wheelchair basketball… a really fast and interesting game (and I don’t like sport).
So we got luckier with the Paralympics as regards tickets. And again the difficulty is writing about an experience that has been so written about by other people. You end up dragging up the same words – inspiration, equality, excellence, courage, grit. If nothing else watching someone with no arms swim four lengths in the time you would struggle to do two, puts your life a little in perspective. Or watching the courage to do dangerous stuff when blind or unable to put hands out if you fell.
Partly it is the seductive thing about being part of a crowd and knowing who to cheer. The crowds and the commentators were partisan – anyone from Paralympics GB got cheered – but also generous. Anyone who was a champion or broke a record, or broke their own best, was applauded, regardless of country. (The classification system means some athletes finished close to last and yet still beat the record for their class… and they got massive applause.) And in every race event so far, the crowd has always held the applause until the absolutely last person finishes. In some events, that is a serious gap of minutes and yet the crowd celebrated the athlete being there and keeping going. It was a generous crowd and not one which was spiteful to certain countries.
And although its a competition, the competitors seem able to be friendly afterwards. There have been spats over the classification system and the prosthetics used… and as the Paralympics becomes more mainstream and commercially important, the pressures will increase. But there is also a lot of good sports-personship on show, without which it is all meaningless.
And we all had to stand for the national anthems of various dictatorships – the first three victory ceremonies for China, Iran and Cuba. So that was a little Quaker/Amnesty dilemma for us. We stood for the athletes and for peace between the nations. Its interesting that the only boo-ing I have heard was George Osborne.
It was also good to be in a large, friendly, mixed crowd who were determined to have a good time.
People can make something of the worst situations. We need not to judge people by what they look like or what we think they can do. It was a paean to the triumph of the human spirit, an answering of that of God in all of us.