Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT
Every Olympic Games makes it into the global spotlight, but that is not the case for the Paralympics.
The Olympic creed states, "The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well." Although the Olympic spirit is perfectly expressed in the determination of physically challenged athletes to achieve their very best, the Paralympics has never attracted as much attention as the Olympics. Even more so in China.
During the ongoing Rio Paralympics that kicked off on September 7, the 499-member Chinese delegation topped the medal count with 118, winning 50 golds, followed by Britain with 28 golds and Ukraine with 22 golds as of Tuesday morning. Several Chinese athletes have not only won gold medals, but also broke world records in swimming, weightlifting, the discus throw and other events. This stands in stark contrast to the Chinese delegation's performance at the Rio Olympic Games, its worst in two decades.
But how was the Paralympic athletes' brilliant performance received? Few people pay attention to the Paralympics unless it makes headlines. Even if people want to find out about the results, the Paralympics gets a fraction of the news coverage bestowed on the Olympics. For this, Chinese media is to blame.
While major international media outlets such as BBC, CNN, the Guardian and ABC gave prominence to the Rio Paralympics either on their home page or in their sports coverage, it is nearly invisible on major Chinese web portals such as Sina, Sohu and Tencent. Instead, Premier League and NBA results take the spotlight.
Though China Central Television's (CCTV) sports channel live broadcasted the Rio Olympics all day long, it has only spared an hour a day to Paralympic coverage without a single live broadcast. This absence of attention is also reflected on CCTV's official website, which only carries a few out-of-date reports about the Rio Paralympics.
This absence has not gone unnoticed on Chinese social media. "I want to watch Paralympics events, but I can't find any broadcasts," wrote a Net user. "These athletes deserve more media attention. As always, it's up to the media to decide what we can learn about," commented another.
Yet in comparison, sports stars that rose to fame during last month's Olympic Games are still making headlines for such great achievements as writing poems, appearing on TV programs or going back to college.
This sharp contrast underlines the inadequate awareness and care that the disabled receive in China. The nation is home to 85 million people with disabilities, but to most Chinese, the handicapped constitute an invisible community separate from the able-bodied. Public facilities for the disabled are often conspicuously absent or repurposed. Tactile sidewalks for the blind are often poorly installed or blocked by parked cars. Public bathrooms designated for the handicapped are still absent in many places in China. While people in many developed countries such as Japan and the US make efforts to address the needs of the handicapped, many disabled people in China cannot leave home without assistance due to inadequate or missing amenities.
The Paralympics may not see the same glory as the Olympics, but they embody the striving for equality and respect that shouldn't go as underappreciated as it does. In the media's quest to keep churning out eye-catching reports, they also must take the time to draw attention to the plights and achievements of the disabled, so the public can better give the care and respect they deserve.
The author is a reporter with the Global Times. firstname.lastname@example.org