It was as if I was entering the ancient Roman Colosseum. The overwhelming mass of human beings in the Olympic stadium was truly awe-inspiring. Positioned neatly at ground level, the areas for disabled people were decent enough, though Autumn tickled us with a chilly breeze.
The ceremony was quite simply the maddest of events. It was spectacle. It was noise and light. It was fairy land. There were monsters and dancers and people swaying on wires. Oh, and apparently there were disabled athletes, who seemed to have been herded into their seats to stay put and enjoy, or else. I liked the parading of the flags and spotted one or two wheelies, and can only hope the majority were disabled.
The performance aspect of the event was disgustingly short of disabled performers. Believe me, there are many – this is the sector I work in.I know these things. Actor/performer Mat Fraser drumming with Coldplay did his fine work, and I gather there were a few more – but where? We needed to know.
It was good to hear the Paraorchestra but they could have played for longer. At least this would have limited Coldplay’s turgid set, though I suppose it was good enough in that ‘rawk’ sort of way to get the crowds going. Does Rihanna have a hidden impairment? Let us be told.
As a wheelchair-user, I want to point out that upon leaving the stadium into the hordes, I was stepped on and stepped over, pushed and corralled by mindless non-disableds, who minutes before were teary eyed and cheering the ‘inspirational’ Paralympians. Ho hum. But I have noticed a subtle positive difference in how people are towards me on the street.
This is good, and bad. I fear a polarisation of opinion which will play right into the hands of the Con-Dems. Now we ordinary disableds will have to Try Harder and Achieve. If and when we can’t live up to that idea, we are truly damned. The reality for us is still not reported with detail or variety, and so the prejudice and misconception goes on. And on. Come on now, you must get a grip that this isn’t all about trying!
I am indifferent to sport, no matter who is involved in it. Yet I did enjoy moments of these games, and the closing ceremony, in ways that surprised me. It was moving to see Ellie Simmonds and Johnny Peacock put out the flames on that beautiful torch. I now know who Dave Weir is and I warm to him, to many of the athletes in a somewhat slushy way. We will have shared experiences, they feel like brethren because we know what we have to fight. Maybe a few are professionals and will go onto lucrative sponsorship deals etc etc. Oscar has the pretty face for that, Johnny too. But it will not happen to them all and no doubt the rest will be stuck facing the attacks on our rights, cruel unjust assessments, benefits cuts and hate crime, along with the rest of us.
I tried booing Boris waving that flag at the closing ceremony, but the jingoistic choir was in full happy swing. Last Monday, I was at an event at City Hall celebrating 10 years of Liberty, one of the biggest disability arts events in the world, which took place Sept 1st-3rd at the Southbank. There were many suits noshing the canapes amid us disabled artists. As the event comes ‘from’ the Mayor of London’s office, and Boris loves waving that flag, you would think he’d show up. No chance (perhaps a blessing) – a truly sub-sub minion was sent in his place. Clearly he had better things to do, like comb his hair.
If I hear that pointless word inspiration one more time, I’ll have to take up the paralympic javelin and aim for the groin… We’ve had it all our lives, simply for being, for living, for doing.
Call my writing inspirational for the right reasons. Give context! Give me (us all) the space to be, to create, with equality and I might shut up!
I want a lasting legacy from the Games, but the fight goes on now to tackle the UK government’s ongoing destruction of basic rights disabled people have fought for over many hard years – and that is where we must take the focus if anything genuine shall come out of this crazy contrary 10 day show.
Oh and just to mention – my book Desires Reborn is now out on Kobo along with Kindle and at Itunes, and at Waterstones. Please read for an alternative perspective on disabled peoples lives.