Yesterday, this paper ran a two-page photo feature on the State Paralympic Games held at the Dharavi Sports Complex in the city, under the headline: ‘Fable of Able’. The pictures showed disabled, or as in politically correct terminology today, differently-abled competitors taking part in a slew of sports, from swimming to badminton, from table tennis to discus throw.
The pictures are frames of sterling and stirring courage. There is a swimmer with a stump for an arm and a leg diving into the water. Wheelchair bound competitors use their upper body strength in the discus. Badminton players maneuvered themselves on court. All of them going to prove, that they may be missing a limb or even two, but they are not short on courage and determination.
One hopes that the government provides these athletes with good facilities, as much as possible to propel them forward in their sport. For many of these athletes, competing is one way of boosting self-confidence and
self-esteem and they must have opportunities to train, if not in luxury, then relative comfort and ease for their respective sports.
Sadly, we see that the city lacks infrastructure at various maidans and grounds. Besides the paucity of open grounds for sport itself, even when they are present, changing rooms are not upto the mark or absent altogether. Many times, the toilets are in a dilapidated condition with no running water, and showers are absent or not working. Sometimes, drinking water facilities too are scarce and athletes have had to buy bottles of water. If these conditions are challenging for able athletes, then one can imagine the difficulties faced by disabled.
Paralympians have brought great glory to India in the past too, competing at the highest level and against the best in the world in the Paralympics. Let us keep them in mind when we build sporting infrastructure in the future. At least one ramp, disabled-friendly washrooms and a modicum of ease getting to the venues of training and competition will make these inspirational people, feel appreciated and cared for. Let us factor them in, in our sporting aspirations and dreams.