Today marks 100 days until the Paralympics begin. With all the excitement building around the Olympic torch relay, and the announcement last week of the Paralympic torchbearers, it’s easy to feel as if the Games are almost upon us. But even if you haven’t planned a big festival to celebrate the Olympics, there’s still time to be ready for the Paralympics. I’d like to explore a bit more about this major sporting event, and suggest a Paralympics weekend in churches on the weekend of 9 September.
When international athlete Anne Wafula Strike spoke at St Paul’s at the commissioning of the2012, I was charged with looking after her and her family during the evening, a sort of VIP welcome. As we got to know each other, her daily routine as a wheelchair sprinter seemed indistinguishable from that of able-bodied sports fanatics I know – getting up early, eating carefully, training hard, always talking about race times and striving to beat her personal best. There’s sometimes a slightly patronising prevalent sentiment that Paralympic sport is sport for the paralysed, not real sport. This is a complete misinterpretation – in fact the word derives from παρά – Games which happen alongside the Olympics. As these athletes train hard and go through selection, let’s enjoy and wonder in their achievements.
However, being sports that not many of us have tried before, Paralympic sports can be a great leveller. Recently on ‘That Paralympic Show’ on Channel 4, David Beckham was challenged to a game of Blind Football and was thoroughly defeated by the GB squad. If you’ve got a youth group where sports evenings are a bit imbalanced and the same people always win, why not suggest Boccia, a sport where skill and subtlety matters far more than size, speed or strength. If there are local sports clubs for people with disabilities, perhaps one of their coaches could help you lead a session. An all-age, all-ability, team-based sports day as the Autumn term begins could be a great ice-breaker to start the year.
Theological Reflection – EveryBody Has a Place
Having missed out on reflecting on the theology of sport due to a conference cancellation earlier in the year, I’m really looking forward to this conference run by my counterparts at Catholic 2012 – which will explore how Disability, Theology and Sport speak powerfully to one another. For information about this international conference, held at Westminster Central Hall on Mon 2 July from 10am – 4pm, visit the Catholic 2012 website.
Resources for churches
We’re in the process of putting together some resources to make it really easy to run a Paralympics celebration weekend in your church community. This could go in the church diary for 9 September, or either of the two weekends before that. I’ll include:
- some ‘how to’ sheets so you’re confident about how to run activities using Paralympic sports
- a resource for a Sunday service
- some ideas for getting youth and children’s groups discussing disability and the Paralympics
It’s proving quite hard to track down resources – if there are tools you’ve used and could recommend I’d be happy to include them in this pack. But all the events that work for the Olympics – big screens, barbecues and community events – are equally fun for the Paralympics, and would be a great way to celebrate the start of a new term.