You have to be in Vancouver to appreciate this but one of the hottest questions in the mainstream media is, Why aren't the Parlympics part of the Winter Olympics?
Public opinion is very clear – they should be. Paralympians shouldn't have to wait 10 days to re-energize the city and the country. This is the same public that embarrassed CTV into live coverage, at least in BC, of the Opening Ceremonies to the Paralympic Games and will likely achieve a nationally broadcast finale. As an indication of how far cultural acceptance has come, this outpouring of support and understanding is broad based and is not being led by the disability community. People are motivated by a sense of fairness. They want athletes with disabilities to receive the same treatment as Olympic athletes – the same profile, same adulation, same compensation (medalists in the Olympics receive cash bonuses- Paralympians don't!), and the same acknowledgment. This is a public that has been raised on Terry Fox, Barb Goode, Rick Hansen, Bonnie Sherr Klein, Sam Sullivan, Stephanie Cadieux, Tim Louis, Halldor Bjaranson, Joe Coughlin and many others. They know about the abilities and contributions of all people with disabilities. They want to end the negative typecasting.
This is an instance, where the public is ahead of a small but elite group of people who like things just the way they are. I refer to those in the leadership of the International Paralympic Committee. I have observed they like their stature on top of the Parlympic world. Any integration of both Games would lessen their power and perks.
All kinds of reasons are presented for keeping the status quo. It's complicated; it's too costly; the venue requirements are different When I hear or read such comments I can't help feeling that it is code for saying, we like our exalted status and we'd rather be big fish in a small pond. Others I have spoken to have shared the same observations. Even the former head of the IPC Dr. Robert Steadward has publicly stated that operating the Paralympics at the same time as the Olympics would create efficiencies and accelerate the integration of people with disabilities into society. He's an insider – he should know.
Vanoc took the first step by being the first to organize both Games under one umbrella. The next step is to integrate the Winter Games. Paralympians deserve it. The public wants it. Now that would be a majestic legacy of the 2010 Winter Games!