Tuesday, January 15, 2008

today : betrayed runner

What I have found interesting about the IAAF's decision to disbar Oscar Pistorius from the Olympics is that it has revealed a wider attitude towards disabled athletes and disability in general. I have listened to Radio 5 for a few hours today and heard the words cripple, freakshow and cheating used in relation to disabled athletes by otherwise apparently reasonable people

It turns out that the Olympic movement, which in the popular imagination is about 'inclusion' is actually just as snobbish, prejudiced and based around exclusion as other institutions. Eddie the Eagle and Eric the Eel were considered an embarrassment to sport and competitors of their level and ilk were subsequently disallowed from competing. And now Pistorius is being treated in much the same way as a steroid user might be.

As well this just being sour and churlish - like when the disabled golf guy was disallowed from using an electric cart, despite bing unable to walk between shots - this whole thing is more sinister. Able bodied people are deciding the definitions of disability, rather than the disabled themselves being allowed to make the call. They are then using their own definitions to exclude those they simply don't like. Nathalie Du Toit, the South African swimmer is another case. I have heard people suggest that her missing leg might 'put off' other swimmers who are not used to it, and thus gain her an advantage. This whole thing echoes the way that (in sports especially) people refuse to see naturalised citizens as British, always referring back to their foreign-ness, reinforcing a jingoistic and frankly colonial attitude to nations.

What is exposed here is the politics of exclusion at its starkest, and degrades the Olympic ideal.

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