Should Olympics, Paralympics be showcased on same stage?

In its current format, there is a two-week lull before the torch is officially passed from the Olympic Games to the Paralympic Games. The wait is a buzz kill, and one Paralympic great wants to see that changed.

8-time Canadian Paralympic champion wants 'proportional coverage'

Paralympian Mac Marcoux, right, and Olympian Cassie Sharpe, left, both won gold medals, but the exposure each received was on a significantly different scale. (Getty Images)

Is it time to change the timing of the Paralympic Games?

The word Paralympic stems from the Greek preposition "para" meaning "beside," "beyond" or "side by side" and Olympic. Yet, for some reason, it doesn't quite play out that way. The Paralympics always happen after the Olympic Games. 

"It might be time for the next change," said Lauren Woolstencroft, a retired alpine skier and eight-time Paralympic gold medallist who's in Pyeongchang as part of CBC's broadcast crew.

"When I look at how far the Paralympic Games have come, even in my life time, it's impressive. It wasn't until the 1990s [1992 Winter Games in Albertville, France] that the Paralympic Games were even held in the same host city as the Olympic Games, and that was the last big change."

In its current format, there is a two-week lull before the torch is officially passed from the Olympic Games to the Paralympic Games. The wait is a buzz kill. Olympic fans, happy to watch any sport with athletes representing the Maple Leaf, turn the dial, thinking the sport festivities end when the Olympic flame is extinguished. 

What they miss is a spectacular display of athleticism, inspirational storytelling and intense competition.  Where Canadian stars like Brian McKeever, Kurt Oatway and Mac Marcoux have already stood proudly atop the podium as the Canadian anthem played. 

McKeever's gold medal in the men's visually impaired 20km cross-country skiing event gave him 14 career Paralympic medals, the most in Canadian history. 1:13

It's no wonder many Paralympians still struggle to generate exposure, they simply aren't benefitting from the same breadth of spotlight that catapults niche Olympic sports like luge and ski jumping from relative obscurity, to legit workplace water cooler discussions.

"What I'd like to see is all the media step up and cover it. To give it proportional coverage so everyone can see it," said Woolstencroft.

But even with all media equal, is it not time to find synergies and showcase the events as one?

"Personally, I think Paralympians like having a separate event. There's a special camaraderie, I wouldn't want to lose that if it was integrated into one big event.  But I don't think anyone is drawing a line in the sand, most Paralympians would be willing to try everything."

The Olympic Committee and the Paralympic Committee continue to be separate entities, as are the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee. They are founded in similar principles and tout the same values. They even share some of the same sponsors. Could they not also share a Games time, even if they retained their separate identity?

"I'd like to see the Paralympics happen with no gap in momentum, when everyone is still at the Games.  Maybe as a big sport festival, one Games right after the other."

Imagine that, the Olympic and Paralympic Games truly side by side - a flame that doesn't extinguish in separation but instead, continuously burns as athletes represent their country across all disciplines in sport.  A true show of sport standing for inclusion. 

About the Author

Deidra Dionne

Deidra Dionne is Director, Business Affairs at Rogers Media. Her unique outlook on the business of sport stems from her experience as a two-time Olympian and Olympic medallist in freestyle skiing aerials, and from her education and experience as a lawyer in the sport and entertainment industry.

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