Monthly Archives: April 2012

Blast from the Past – Some Sports and Events No Longer on the Paralympic Summer Programme

 Below is a list of some of the sports and events that have previously been on the summer ‘Paralympic’ programme. I’ve put the word Paralympic in inverted commas because I’ve also included some sports and events from the early Stoke Mandeville Games (that went on to become the Paralympic Games in Olympic Years). None of these sports or events are on the current Paralympic programme. Some are instantly recognisable, some you may never have heard of!

Netball

‘Net-ball’ was added to the programme for the second Stoke Mandeville Games held on 27th July 1949 (Image). This was a kind of hybrid of netball (an English game played in schools) and basketball played in wheelchairs and using netball posts for goals. It was played mainly by men, but women were allowed to play. In 1955 netball was replaced with wheelchair basketball, which is a major sport on the Paralympic programme today. Women’s wheelchair basketball was first added to the Paralympic programme in Tel Aviv in 1968.

Snooker

Snooker was the fourth sport to be added to the Stoke Mandeville Games in 1951. Although it was part of the summer Paralympic Games programme right up until Seoul in 1988 many of the host nations were unfamiliar with the sport and the tables and equipment, which were both very heavy and expensive often had to be shipped to the host city from England in order for the sport to take place.

Dartchery

Archery-darts or dartchery as its name was shortened to was first demonstrated at the Stoke Mandeville Games in 1953 and added to the competitive programme in 1954. This game began at the Chaseley home in Eastbourne, where a team of wheelchair archers would take on teams of non-disabled darts players from pubs and clubs in the area. The non-disabled darts players would play their normal game throwing at the normal board. The wheelchair archers would use a bow and arrow shooting at a board exactly three times the normal size of a standard dart board at a distance of thirty feet. Out of seven matches played in October and November 1952 the Chaseley team won five, drew one and only lost one match. The only difficulty they had was finding a venue with enough space. Dartchery remained on the Paralympic programme for wheelchair athletes up until Arnhem in 1980.

Pentathlon

The pentathlon event was added to the Stoke Mandeville Games programme in 1959 and remained on the Paralympic programme until Arnhem in 1980. Although the results were always listed under ‘Athletics’ this pentathlon event was actually a combination of three sports – Archery, Athletics (Track & Field) and Swimming. The athletics events were usually Shot Putt, Javelin and a track sprint. Distances for the track sprint and swimming race and the type of archery round shot (eg. Colombia, FITA) were dependent upon the severity of the disability.

Precision Javelin

Precision Javelin was an event for wheelchair athletes added to the programme for the first time at the first Paralympic Games in Rome in 1960. It is a combination of javelin throwing and archery. The throwing position was exactly the same as for a normal javelin throwing competition, but instead of trying the throw the javelin as far as they could the competitors would throw at a target marked out on the floor. The target was a series of concentric circles, with the largest being three metres in diameter decreasing by forty centimetres in diameter with each circle until the final centre circle, which was twenty centimetres in diameter. Men would throw from a line ten metres from the middle of the centre circle and women from a line seven metres away. Points were awarded depending upon which circle the javelin point landed in with the most points being awarded for the centre circle. So, as with archery, the key object of the exercise was accuracy and control. The individual with the highest points total after a set number of throws was declared the winner. Precision Javelin ceased to be a Paralympic event after the Toronto games in 1976.

Wheelchair Slalom  

Wheelchair Slalom was designed to test the speed, agility and control of the wheelchair user over a specially designed course for which they were timed and time penalties were added for each obstacle or trick they failed to complete successfully. The individual with the lowest or fastest time at the end was declared the winner. It was first added to the programme of the Stoke Mandeville Games in 1963 and was competed for at the Paralympic Games from Tokyo in 1964 until Seoul in 1988. Although no longer part of the Paralympic programme the Wheelchair Slalom is still used at many disability sports events for wheelchair users around the world today, including those in electric wheelchairs.

Lawn Bowls

Lawn Bowls  (Image) was added to the programme of the 1963 Stoke Mandeville Games, but didn’t make it onto the summer Paralympic Games programme until Tel Aviv in 1968. However, a bit like Snooker, Lawn Bowls was a sport little played outside of Commonwealth Nations and so finding suitable venues proved problematic. So much so that it was dropped from the programme for Barcelona 1992 and although it returned in Atlanta 1996 that was the last time Lawn Bowls was played at a Paralympic Games.

Standing Volleyball

With the addition of other impairment groups to the Paralympic Games in Toronto 1976 came the addition of a number of new sports for athletes other than those in wheelchairs. One such sport was standing volleyball for amputees. Sitting volleyball for a range of impairments was added in Arnhem 1980, but after Sydney 2000 standing volleyball was removed from the programme by the International Paralympic Committee on the grounds that it did not meet the criteria set for inclusion in the Paralympic programme. This has caused much controversy in countries such as Cambodia, who are very successful in standing amputee volleyball and feel that their right to show the world what they are capable of has been removed from them.

Wrestling 

Wrestling for the blind, similar to American High School Wrestling, was added to the programme in Arnhem in 1980 and was also competed for in New York in 1984. In Arnhem, the competition was totally dominated by the United States and Canada, who were the only two teams to send wrestling competitors. In Arnhem a blind Judo demonstration was held in the sports hall at Papendal organised by Great Britain, Israel and the Netherlands. Eleven judokas, three with black belts, took part from the three organising countries plus Japan. Blind judo went on to replace blind wrestling at the Paralympics in Seoul eight years later and remains on the programme to this day.

Cross Country Running

Cross country running for athletes with cerebral palsey appeared on the Paralympic programme only once – in New York in 1984.

How big is the developed nation/ developing nation gap in Paralympic sport?

There has long been debate and argument regarding the potential advantages developed nations have over developing nations when it comes to athlete preparation for the Olympic Games and other non-disabled sports. These range from far better facilities and equipment to better diet to better trained coaching and support staff to just having more money available to prepare athletes and teams. With the increasing importance of the Paralympic Games this debate has been widened to include athletes with disabilities, especially those requiring expensive equipment such as racing wheelchairs or prosthetic limbs, as has been highlighted in several recent articles regarding the plight of the Cambodian Paralympic team. Although there can be little argument over the cost of such equipment, some research I did a few years ago highlighted some quite surprising results regarding medal success at the Athens Paralympic Games.

 An analysis of the Athens Paralympic Games medal table shows that 135 nations took part and 75 of them won medals. This research began with the premis that the more economically strong a country, the more likely it would be able to provide services and opportunities to their disabled population, especially in what is an arguably non-essential area such as sport. Whilst acknowledging that is a contentious idea, in terms of the problems faced by disabled people in terms of access to education and jobs, with the ensuant poverty that this often leads to for many disabled people, then providing sporting activities for the disabled is arguably an area that is only open to those countries with the strongest economies. The paralympic medal table fromAthenswas therefore used to compare the relative success of the countries that won medals with their GDPpc in order to see if there really was any link between economic prosperity and sporting success at the Paralympic Games.  Spearman’s rank correlation was used to compare the relative success of each nation winning a Paralympic medal inAthenswith their corresponding GDPpc. Success was judged by awarding three points for a gold medal, two for a silver and one for a bronze with countries being ranked on a points total basis. The same calculations were carried out for countries winning Olympic medals inAthens. The results were as follows:

Spearman Rank Correlation

Olympics

Paralympics

Success against GDPpc

0.360   (99.5%)

0.435   (99.9%)

Team Size against GDPpc

0.345   (99.0%)

0.395   (99.9%)

Team Size against Success

0.848   (>99.9%)

0.902   (>99.9%)

Table 1. Spearman Rank correlation results for Olympic and Paralympic medal winning countries in Athens 2004.

 As can be seen, there is only a weak correlation between success and the economic prosperity of a country, although the correlation does appear to be slightly stronger for the Paralympics. On the basis that the bigger the team sent to the Games the greater the cost team size was then compared against GDPpc, but perhaps more surprisingly than the first result there was again only a weak correlation, which was again slightly higher for the Paralympics. Finally, team size was compared against success with somewhat surprising results given the results for the first two sets of correlations. Both showed a strong correlation, with the Paralympics again coming out slightly higher.

 This would appear to indicate that the bigger the team a country sends, and, therefore, by definition, the more money they spend, the greater the opportunity for success. However, what is really interesting about this, given the results of the first two calculations, is that it appears it is not just the economically strong and prosperous countries that are willing to spend large amounts of money in order to try and attain success at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. This appears to clearly hint at the international significance and political importance that success at these Games has attained and the amount of valuable national resources even the poorest countries are willing to invest in order to try and achieve that success.

 Taking the analysis of the Athens medal tables in a slightly different direction I then looked at the distribution of Olympic and Paralympic medals at Athens 2004 by continent.

 

Africa

Americas

Asia

Olympic Medals

9

13

6

59

60

56

66

50

47

Pts (%)

59pts (3.3%)

353pts (19.8%)

339pts (19.0%)

Countries

11

12

13

Paralympic Medals

50

40

30

86

69

96

117

97

88

Pts (%)

260pts (8.4%)

492pts (15.8%)

633pts (20.4%)

Countries

11

11

14

Medals at both Games

6

7

9

 

Europe

Oceania

 
Olympic Medals

149

162

192

9

13

16

 
Pts (%)

963pts (54.0%)

69pts (3.9%)

 
Countries

37

2

 
Paralympic Medals

234

272

278

32

32

39

 
Pts (%)

1524pts (49.0%)

199pts (6.4%)

 
Countries

37

2

 

Medals at both Games

32

2

 
                             

 Table 2. Distribution of medal success at the Athens 2004 Olympic and Paralympic Games by continental affiliation.

 This table clearly demonstrates the dominance of Europe at both the Olympic and Paralympic Games in terms of success. However given the origins of both the Games themselves, their founders and the majority of the sports included in their respective programmes this may not be altogether surprising. Perhaps the most surprising thing about the table is the performance of the African nations at the Paralympic Games, when compared to the Olympic Games, jumping from 3.3% at the Olympics to 8.4% at the Paralympics. This is especially surprising given that the highest ranked country by GDPpc (RSA) was only 76th in the world and the only other African country to appear in the top 100 was Botswana at 84th. This would appear to be further proof that the economic status of a country has little if any bearing on success at the Paralympic Games. It is possible that poverty and war inAfrica have lead to greater numbers of disabled people and, therefore, a higher possibility of finding and training a successful Paralympic athlete. The greater number of events at the Paralympic Games borne out of the classification system may also play a part in increasing opportunities for success. However, this does not explain why these countries should spend time and money on recruiting and training these athletes given the other problems such as poverty, corruption and war prevalent within many African nations.

 In conclusion then it cannot be denied that developed nations have an huge economic advantage in preparing athletes for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games many of the developing nations are investing in Paralympic sport often with far greater success than at the Olympic Games.

———————

Post adapted from Brittain, I., 2006, Paralympic success as a measure of  national social and economic development, International Journal of Eastern Sport and Physical Education, Vol. 4(1), 38-47.

Great Britain – the only nation to have competed at every summer and winter Olympic and Paralympic Games?

The Olympic Games

 The following information for participation at the summer and winter Olympic Games was provided to me by Bill Mallon, a fellow member and former President of the International Society of Olympic Historians (ISOH), which he co-founded in late 1991. He has written over twenty books on Olympic history, has been a consultant statistician to the International Olympic Committee and was awarded the Olympic Order in silver in 2001 for services to the Olympic movement.

Summer Olympic Games

The countries that are considered to have competed at all summer Olympic Games (1896 – 2008) are

Australia, France, Great Britain, Greece and Switzerland

It is also possible, but as yet unconfirmed that an Italian national competed in St Louis in 1904, which would add Italy to the above list for the summer Olympic Games.

Winter Olympic Games

The countries that are considered to have competed at all winter Olympic Games (1924 – 2010) are

Austria, Canada, Finland, France, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland, Switzerland, Sweden and United States of America

However, counting the London 1908 (Figure Skating) and Antwerp 1920 (Figure Skating and Ice Hockey) winter events from the Summer Olympic Games, only

Great Britain, Sweden and United States of America

have competed at all possible editions. This, therefore, leaves Great Britain as the only nation to have competed at all summer and winter Olympic Games

The Paralympic Games

The following information from the Paralympic Games comes about as a result of twelve years of research by myself. More details for the summer Games can be found in my latest book From Stoke Mandeville to Stratford: A history of the summer Paralympic Games. The winter Paralympic Games version is still in the process of being written.

Summer Paralympic Games                                    

The countries that are considered to have competed at all summer Paralympic Games (1960 – 2008) are

Australia, Austria, Belgium, France, Federal Republic of Germany/ Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden and United States of America

Winter Paralympic Games

The countries that are considered to have competed at all winter Paralympic Games (1976 – 2010) are

Austria, Canada, Czechoslovakia/ Czech Republic, Finland, Federal Republic of Germany/ Germany, France, Great Britain, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and United States of America

The following countries have, therefore competed in all summer and winter Paralympic Games

Austria, France, Federal Republic of Germany/ Germany, Great Britain, Sweden and United States of America

For any Swiss reading this who think they have competed in every summer Paralympic Games I would point out that Switzerland were not represented in Madrid 1992 in the Paralympic Games for the Intellectually Disabled. For any Australians that think they have competed in every winter Paralympic Games I would point out that Ron Finneran, Australia’s sole representative at the first winter Paralympic Games in Örnsköldsvik 1976 was deemed ineligible to compete as he did not fit into any of the impairment classifications taking part in those Games i.e. amputees and blind and visually impaired.

Conclusion

Combining the final Olympic and Paralympic lists leaves Great Britain as the only nation to have competed at every single summer and winter Olympic and Paralympic Games!

 

The Paralympic Games – A Cultural or a Sports Event?

From its inception in the late 1940s the founder of the international disability sport movement, Ludwig Guttmann, described the aims of his use of sport in the rehabilitation process of the spinally injured to be social re-integration and to change the perceptions of the non-disabled within society regarding what people with disabilities were capable of. This continued to be the underlying message of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) regarding the Paralympic Games and international disability sport for many years. These kinds of aims and the language associated with them (e.g. social integration, changing perceptions etc) possibly led to the Paralympic Games being perceived primarily as a cultural games rather than one that is about sport. Cultural games have as their aim an ethos of fostering self-respect and belief amongst their participants as well as helping to solidify their social identity as a group. Other examples of cultural games include the Gay Games and the Maccabiah Jewish Games. However, the last eight to ten years or so, have seen a distinct shift in the language used and the aims set out by the International Paralympic Committee. The language used is now much more about sport than disability as these two items on the mission statement of IPC clearly shows:

  • To promote and contribute to the development of sport opportunities and competitions, from initiation to elite level, for Paralympic athletes as the foundation of elite Paralympic sport
  • To promote the self-governance of each Paralympic sport either as an integral part of the international sport movement for able-bodied athletes, or as an independent sport organization, whilst at all times safeguarding and preserving its own identity.

(Paralympic Mission, Chapter 1.1; IPC Website, 2012)

Although references to identity and integration are still inherent within the statements the focus is explicitly on sport and sporting opportunities. There is no mention of disability with the exception of its inherent connection with the word Paralympic and all the mentions of the word Paralympic are in connection with elite athletes and sport. It is possible that the reasons for this change hinge upon the fact that the advent of the social model of disability and the increasing influence of disability politics within societies in general meant that recognition of disability issues was much more prevalent. This allowed disability sport and elite disability sport in particular to shift the focus of its aims away from the acceptance of people with disabilities as potentially productive members of society to gaining their acceptance as elite athletes irrespective of any impairment they might have. It is equally possible that the close working relationship between the IPC and the Olympic movement have played a key role in this process as IPC have moved to model themselves more closely upon the way the IOC operates.

There can be little doubt that, historically speaking, there was a definite need for the disability movement in general to take a cultural model approach in all areas in order to try and remove the cloak of near invisibility cast over it by the rest of society and to highlight the fact that people with disabilities were capable of amazing feats, just like anyone else within society. One of the most successful and visible avenues through which these aims have been achieved is through sport. However, disability sport has been so successful that the language and aims of the cultural model approach reached a point whereby they were preventing people with disabilities from being accepted in some quarters as athletes within non-disabled definitions of what constitutes an ‘athlete’, which often conjures up images of physical perfection  and sporting prowess that most of the non-disabled population could never achieve. By constantly referring to disability and the exploits of ‘disabled’ sportsmen and women this not only re-emphasised an element of difference, but also continued to highlight the oxymoronic nature between the non-disabled understandings of words such as ‘disabled’ and ‘athlete’ when the two words were brought together. By taking a sport model approach, which emphasises the athleticism of athletes with disabilities and using words such as Paralympian, which, although still understood to mean an athlete with disability, negates the need for any mention of the disability itself, the aims of the cultural model approach can still be achieved without the inherent problems of such an approach as mentioned above. By becoming ‘Parallel Olympians’ athletes with disabilities can try to get away from the oxymoron that ‘disabled athlete’ may be perceived as and associate themselves with a movement which sells itself as being about sport as a vehicle for peace and understanding as well as sport of the very highest level. In this way both the cultural and sporting aims of the Paralympic Movement can be met in a positive and constructive context.

Disabled Athlete – An Oxymoron?

Language is, at its most simple, just a series of words or characters. It is the meanings attached by humans to these words or characters that makes language important. One function of language is communication, but in communicating humans also, more often than not, convey the underlying meaning behind the words or characters used. It is also claimed that language plays a key role in politics, domination and control. The meanings attached to the words or characters used are socially constructed within the social or cultural group within which an individual grows up and develops. Therefore, there can be major differences in the perceived meanings of words such as disability, disabled and even what constitutes sport, dependent upon the social and cultural group within which an individual learns their proscribed meanings. However, as some social groups and cultures within a given society are more powerful or have more influence than others one set of meanings for these words may gain dominance, even over those meanings proscribed by the group they refer to. Language, therefore, is made powerful by the meanings ascribed to particular words and phrases and the understanding of those meanings by various groups within society. The non-disabled form, by far, the largest group within society and also the most powerful, by sheer force of numbers if nothing else. Therefore, non-disabled definitions or meanings for words tend, on the whole, to be the most widely accepted and used.

There has, in recent times, with the advent of the social model of disability, been slow but positive change in some quarters regarding the meaning attached to disability. However, for the majority of non-disabled the perceived meaning is still based within the medical model of disability whereby disability has as its emphasis a disability – specific or categorical approach that reinforces and perpetuates the perspective of disability as found in the person and their individual impairment and, therefore, as a problem of the individual. In addition, little headway, if any, has been made in altering in any way the meaning attached to words such as ‘sport’ and ‘athlete’. The connection between the human body, physicality and sport is a complex one. However, Barton (1993) claims sport is a social construction of dominant groups within society and is, therefore, a creation of and for the non-disabled, which gives priority to certain types of human movement. According to Middleton (1999) sport is a highly prized activity within society, in which success is well rewarded and applauded. She claims that ‘a high value is placed on physical perfection measured in terms of speed, strength, endurance, grace, style and the ability to fight’(Middleton, 1999; p.65). These highly prized attributes of any top class athlete mean that when words such as disabled and athlete or disability and sport are placed next to each other the generally accepted understandings of each word mean that there is an immediate and fundamental contradiction. In an ideal world both words should be simply descriptive nouns to describe a condition and an activity respectively. However, in reality, both are laden with socially constructed meaning and underlying value judgements, making the terms disabled athlete or disability sport, for many at least, an oxymoron!

Barton, L., 1993, Disability, Empowerment and Physical Education, in Evans, J. (Ed.), 1993,  Equality, Education and Physical Education, The Falmer Press, London, p. 43-54.

Middleton, L., 1999, Disabled Children: Challenging Social Exclusion, Blackwell Science,Oxford.

 

Abebe Bikila – double Olympic marathon gold medallist and almost Paralympian!

Much has been written about athletes with disabilities who have competed at the Paralympic Games and have then tried to qualify or have succeeded in qualifying for the Olympic Games e.g. Oscar Pistorious (RSA), Natalie du Toit (RSA) and Natalya Partyka (POL). However, virtually nothing has been written about individuals who have competed in the Olympic Games and then as a result of becoming disabled due to illness or injury have then attempted to compete at the Paralympic Games. Most people above a certain age with an interest in sport will know the name Abebe Bikila. He was an Ethiopian who won the Olympic marathon gold medal twice in Rome 1960 and Tokyo 1964. In Rome he actually won running the whole race barefoot. Going for a hat-trick of wins in Mexico City in 1968 Bikila had to withdraw from the race at around 17km due to injury. What many people may not know is that in late 1969 Abebe Bikila was involved in a car accident whilst driving near his home in Addis Ababa. As a result of his accident he was left a quadriplegic and was transferred to Stoke Mandeville hospital as part of his treatment and rehabilitation. Whilst there he did what most patients at Stoke Mandeville did – he participated in sport as part of the rehabilitation process. This led eventually to him competing in the 1971 Stoke Mandeville Games. In 1972 Bikila was actually entered in the archery St Nicholas round for tetraplegics at the Heidelberg Paralympic Games, having already been a guest of honour at the Munich Olympic Games for the men’s marathon race. However, for reason’s so far unexplained the whole Ethiopian team failed to arrive in Heidelberg for the Games. Sadly, Bikila died aged 41 on 25 October 1973 from a cerebral haemorrhage bought on by a complication related to the accident that made him a quadriplegic four years earlier and so never actually got to compete in a Paralympic Games.

Technological Doping/ Cyborg Athletes

The International Paralympic Committee have today released a news item on their website stating that their President, Sir Philip Craven, is asking for athletes to be given full credit for record breaking performances at London 2012. It states that he is concerned that “some people prefer to give credit to the role of technology in an athlete smashing a world record over their actual performance”. This appears to be a continuance of the issues raised over Paralympians, and particularly leg amputees, who have attempted to qualify for the Olympic Games. With the massive improvements in performance standards currently occurring in disability sport some athletes have reached a standard that might allow them to qualify for the Olympic Games. However, the technology they use in terms of adapted equipment in order to enable them to compete has raised questions regarding advantages such equipment might give them over their non-disabled counterparts. This has led to the coining of such terms as ‘technological doping’ or ‘cyborg athlete’. The most notable example of this is, of course, Oscar Pistorius, the South African double-below the knee amputee who uses carbon fibre blade prosthetic limbs to allow him to compete. It is probably unnecessary to go into detail regarding the Pistorius case as it has been covered heavily by both the media and academics worldwide (see Wolbring, 2008; Howe, 2008), However, in brief, Pistorius, a Paralympic Gold medallist and world record holder decided he wished to compete against non-disabled athletes in open competition and if possible qualify to compete in the 400 metres at the Olympic Games in Beijing. He came within half a second of the qualifying standard, when in March 2007 the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) introduced a rule regarding ‘technical aids’ that brought into question the use of such prosthetic limbs within the Olympic Games as it was felt they gave the user an unfair advantage when compared to the capabilities of the human leg. Following an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which challenged the veracity of the tests carried out by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the IAAF it was decided by CAS that Pistorius should be allowed compete (but only using the technology which he used in the original tests). In the end Pistorius failed to reach the qualifying time for the individual event, but still hoped to make his country’s relay team, at which point the IAAF Secretary General Pierre Weiss is cited as saying ‘we’d prefer that they don’t select him for reasons of safety . . . Pistorius will risk the physical safety of himself and other athletes if he runs in the main pack of the relay event’ (CBC Sports, 2008). In the end Pistorius was not selected for the South African team as four other athletes posted faster times. Another South African, swimmer Natalie Du Toit, a single leg amputee, did qualify to represent South Africa in the 10 km open water swimming event at the Beijing Olympic Games and there was no such reticence to her participation by either the IOC or the International Swimming Federation (FINA), as she does not use any kind of prosthetic when she swims, although she does for daily living.

 It would appear then that the fear, in the case of Pistorius, for the IOC and the IAAF, was not the usual prejudice most people with disabilities have encountered at some point in their lives of being considered ‘less than human’, but in fact the complete opposite – the fear of being ‘more than human’. The very devices society has devised to allow individuals to walk in the upright position like everyone else and to compete in running events in a similar style and manner as their non-disabled counterparts are now considered to give an unfair competitive advantage. Pistorius has gone from a fine Paralympic athlete whose achievements were to be applauded (although perhaps by some in a slightly patronising manner) to a kind of ‘Robocop’ of the track who might not only have an unfair advantage over athletes not wearing his prosthetic limbs, but also might reap danger and injury upon both himself and his fellow relay competitors. Swartz and Watermeyer (2008) ascribe this reaction to the fact that Pistorius is effectively challenging one of the key underlying ethics’ of sport – that of bodily perfection. He is challenging culturally ascribed definitions of bodily perfection based around non-disabled conceptions. To have someone whose body is less than perfect (i.e. missing limbs) potentially beating athletes whose bodies far more readily meet the requirements laid down for bodily perfection is a challenge to the virtues of those who hold power, especially when that body has been ‘technologically accessorised’ with prosthetic limbs. It is somewhat ironic that the term ‘prosthetic’ is derived from the Greek meaning ‘an addition designed to remove physical stigma’ (Howe, 2008, p. 127), when in Pistorius’ case it appears to have resulted in removing the stigma of being disabled and adding the stigma of being ‘more than human’ in athletic ability, but ‘less than human’ in physical appearance i.e. some kind of cyborg. This then begins to raise numerous questions around the difference between being human and being a machine. Pistorius is once again hoping to compete in the Olympic Games, this time in London. Whether he will be successful or not remains to be seen, but what is certain is that the questions raised by the issues related to his attempted participation will be far reaching and will continue to be debated for a long time to come. What is clear from the IPC statement mentioned at the beginning of this piece is that it also appears that these questions are also now being directed at athletes within the Paralympic Games and the ‘value’ of record-breaking performances where technology is involved.

Swartz, L. & Watermeyer, L. (2008) Cyborg anxiety: Oscar Pistorius and the boundaries of what it means to be human. Disability and Society, Vol. 23(2); 187-190.