To be in London for the Paralympics this past September was nothing short of incredible. The positive vibe that pervaded the city was contagious, and Londoners really stepped up to make the 2012 Paralympics the best Paralympics ever.
While planning our road trip I religiously checked the London 2012 tickets web site to snap up any Paralympics tickets that became available. To no luck. But we were able to join the crowds to cheer on the Paralympics Marathon at Westminster on a rare hot Saturday morning. We watched several events that were happening concurrently: the mens' and womens' wheelchair marathons, and the mens' running marathon.
It. was. amazing. The pure athleticism of it all was enough to give you goosebumps. But one moment really sticks with me.
During the mens' running marathon, blind Argentinian runner Jose Luis Santero came jogging towards us with his running guide by his side. Just in front of where we were standing he hit the wall. But his guide urged him on, massaging his legs with cool sponges and patting his back and pushing him forward. And as he started to take a few strides forward the crowd went wild.
Goosebumps for everyone!
Wandering through the city's streets during the last weekend of the games we spotted a lot of Paralympians. Which was just as exciting as spotting any other celebrity, and we weren't the only ones who thought so. Groups of tourists and locals stopped the athletes everywhere for photographs and autographs, and to congratulate them on a job well done. Let's be honest, on every other day of the year disabled people are mostly ignored in big cities, so to see such a public outpouring of support and excitement was pretty amazing. (Let's hope it has lasted beyond the games.)
Later next week I'll be writing about watching the Paralympics Closing Ceremony in Trafalgar Square. But today I want to leave you with a quote from the closing ceremony to illustrate why I love the Paralympics just as much (if not, more) than the Olympics:
Before I close I want to link Stephen Hawking's words about changing perceptions across multiple dimensions from the ethereal opening ceremony, to the words of a five year old called George Glen.
A few days ago George was reading a book "Treasure" with his mum, Emma. The first page showed a man with an eye patch, a hook for a hand, a parrot on his shoulder and a wooden leg. Emma asked George who the man was, expecting him to say "a pirate". But he said "Well he only has one leg, he must be an athlete."
- International Paralympic Committee president Sir Philip Craven
p.s. I hope in my lifetime we will not longer use the word 'disabled;' people (like Aimee Mullins) will instead be considered super abled.