After the dust has settled
That final curtain call of the London Paralympic extravaganza is still no doubt fresh in the minds of many, in most cases, the memories are indelible. As I mentioned in my last article, the accolades must certainly stay with the Local Organising Committee (LOCOG), the volunteers, the athletes etc. I suspect that despite the unquestionable and unprecedented success, the minds within the International Paralympic Committee must be reflecting with puffed out chests, and indeed, when looking at some of the statistics, some in trepidation as well?
By the numbers
Without souring anything at all,here is a bird’s - eye view at some of the facts of these games that proudly boasted and hosted a record 4 286 athletes hailing from 164 countries across the globe:
- Of the 4 286 athletes in attendance, 1 935 (45%) came from 10 countries.
- Of the total 498 gold medals on offer, 229 (46%) were won by those countries in the top 5 on the medal table.
- Of the 164 countries, 45 had 1 athlete, 33 had 2 athletes meaning that 78 countries (48%) of the participating countries provided only 111 athletes representing a staggering 3% of Paralympians.
- Of the 4 286 participants, only 315 (7.5%) came from Africa with representation from 41 (25%) countries. This indicates an average of approximately 7 athletes per African nation although the top 6 yielded 255 athletes.
- Had South Africa retained their success rate of 2008 (21 Gold / 06th position), they would have slipped to 08th position on the medal table (finished 18th).
- Tunisia (14th overall) trumped (9 Gold 5 Silver, 5 Bronze), South Africa (18th overall) into pole position from African Countries. Although SA had 29 medals (8 Gold, 12 Silver, 9 Bronze) it’s the gold that counts.
So what does any of the above prove? Well the International Paralympic Committee has got some very serious work to do in the area of tokenism. What is the development program – particularly in Africa where the disabled population is huge. For instance, how is it that a mineral rich country such as Angola can have the lowly representation of four athletes?
In terms of South Africa’s performance – certainly excellent in every way though a few areas should ring alarm bells for SASCOC:
- The performance of the Wheelchair Basketball side and indeed the area surrounding SA teams in general failing to qualify for Paralympic Games (Goal ball, Wheelchair Rugby, 7 a side soccer etc).
- Women representation – Team SA was dominated by 71% male athletes.
- South Africa has always fared in the top end of field events (shot, discus, javelin) yet could only win a single bronze medal (shot put) from veteran Michael Louwrens.
- New standards, training methods, inclusion into sport federations. Retirements and twilight athletes (they can’t go on forever) such as Natalie du Toit will leave a void, what of the new?
Pre and post the isolation years, South Africa has always punched above its weight at Paralympic Games – Rio de Janeiro in 2016 will certainly be the acid test.