chapter  12
17 Pages

Children of a lesser god: Paralympics and high- performance sport


Perhaps not surprisingly there was a degree of public outcry regarding this line in the days that followed (see Moss 2009). Working as an anthropologist with a personal interest in Paralympic sport, in part because of my own participation as an athlete and administrator, I found the joke funny but the public outcry troublesome on a number of fronts. First of all British soldiers, while no doubt more physically fit than the general public, are not necessarily fit by the standards of Paralympians. The assumption that they would get a place on the Paralympic team shows a lack of awareness on the part of Carr and the public alike. Traditionally there is a close link between the military and Paralympic sport in Britain. There is a contemporary link with a Paralympic Military Program called Battle Back1 that has been run by the ministry of defence in the United Kingdom since the spring of 2008. However, only a few of these injured ex-service personnel might be fasttracked into the high performance training programme and have the possibility of gaining selection to the British 2012 Paralympic team. The hidden irony in the Carr joke is delicious. July 29th 1948 was the opening ceremony of the fourteenth Olympic Games, held at Wembley, London, and it was the also the day of the first archery competition between two teams of war-wounded paraplegics held at Stoke

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Surrey and the Pensions Hospital in Stoke Mandeville. As an event it was a very small affair but it is considered to be the beginning of the Paralympic Movement (Bailey 2008; Britten 2009). It is this small event over 60 years ago that makes the joke by Carr far from tasteless and rather appropriate.