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Rio remembered


This is not strictly a view from the stands but a view from a distance. I was not able to be in Rio for the Paralympics but I tried, as much as possible, to follow the athletics, particularly having been to all athletics sessions at the London Paralympics.

In London in 2012 we saw the achievements of the athletes for what they achieved, not for their disability. This continued for Rio and the Channel 4 programme 'The Last Leg' did much to support that in treating athletes as 'normal' people - who can forget Jonnie Peacock in a tootoo  - highlighting their efforts to win and the showing the same trial and tribulations that they experience as all athletes do. It was also nice to hear the familiar voice of Katharine Merry, BASC's President, commentating on events for Channel 4.

In following the games I used all the wonders of digital communication. Channel 4's main coverage followed the similar format that the BBC had used moving to wherever action was featuring Team GB and interviewing winners and having comment from pundits.

We are lucky to live in a digital age as it means we do not have to rely on just one TV channel Unfortunately Channel 4 did not use the 'Red Button' or extra satellite channels but did offer several dedicated feeds on their web site. I tried the athletics feed both at home, where I have a fair Internet connection and elsewhere that has a poor connection, and generally found that the feed was good with very little 'buffering'.

For both the Olympics and the Paralympics a very welcome option was watching the International TV coverage free from pundits and just providing event commentary. The two commentators who covered both the Olympics and the Paralympics described events mostly with impartiality apart from the odd Aussie reference, and although there could always be more, they gave a fair coverage to field events and not just to those on the track.

I am sure that many people used other digital devices to follow events live but in my part of South Wales the mobile signal is just not good enough to use 3G / 4G on a phone or tablet. So, when I was not near a TV or Internet connection, Radio 5 and its sister station Sports Extra broadcast a mix of events, again following Team GB's likely success.

During the Rio Olympics the schedules were cleared and we had noon to small hour commentary. That was not the case for the Paralympics and I was very disappointed when football took precedence moving commentary to the digital only Sports Extra or leaving no commentary at all. Not everyone has access to digital radio on the move so this may have left many people on the move without access to events. To my surprise even Kermode and Mayo's film programme on Radio 5 (something to which I am a devotee - hello to Jason Isaacs) continued in its regular Friday afternoon slot. The programme moved time for the Olympics and the Ryder Cup golf so surely the Paralympics can take priority every four years. Such actions seem in conflict with the BBC's declaration of encouraging Paralympic sport.

So what about athletic competition? The excellent results actually do not give the whole story, however. The athletics only feed via the Internet showed some very good events taking place throughout the games with stiff competition in the finals. Many World Records, as well as personal bests, shows how Paralympic Sport is progressing and I enjoyed every minute of watching and listening.

Having met them at one of the BASC Dinners, I confess that the highlights of the events for me were the performances of Hannah Cockcroft and Richard Whitehead. But the successes of Libby Clegg, Georgina Hermitage and Sophie Hahn also sit well in the memory along with Jonnie Peacock immersing himself in 'The Last Leg' TV programme. Overall, though, the performance of Kadeena Cox, with wins in Athletics and Cycling stands out and justifies her being chosen as winner of BASC's Susanna Ingram Award as IPC Athlete of the Year.

With so many gold medals we sometimes forget the other medal winners – but Team GB’s overall success was excellent.

These games increased my interest in Paralympic sport and I intend to be at all sessions of the IPC World Championships next July. After the Rio games I am expecting an even better event than we had in 2012. Channel 4 will be covering the event so those not able to be there in person should be well served.

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