As the 2012 Summer Paralympic Games are set to arrive in London, Great Britain on Wednesday 29th August 2012, something will be a little bit different for fans of the competition in Britain who would rather get their sporting fix from sitting in an armchair than sitting in a stadium.
There will be a lot of coverage on terrestrial television and when I say there will be a lot, I mean that you will be able to follow the Paralympics from the beginning of the day to the moment that your brain cannot take any more.
This is something which has only been the case for the Summer Olympic Games in the past. The BBC have provided blanket coverage of the Olympics but then very little of an event that gives disabled athletes an opportunity to excel, in exactly the same way that their able-bodied counterparts compete.
Times are changing though, and Channel 4 unleashed a promotion for their coverage of the upcoming Paralympic Games on Tuesday 17th July 2012.
They are the new official host broadcaster, having won the rights to televise the Games from LOCOG (the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games) in January 2010.
They’re also not willing to keep this quiet, where the BBC may have done in the past by broadcasting 300 hours of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China and following this, just 97 hours were shown of the Paralympics that followed.
78 channels showed the promotion as it premiered on Tuesday night. All of Channel 4’s digital channels, Channel 5, the UKTV family of channels and ITV1 simultaneously gave their support to the British broadcaster which will “clear its schedules across the network for the eleven days of the Games to commit more than 150 hours of coverage”.
Such a statement of intent has made it clear that Channel 4 are passionate about the Paralympic Games.
Rick Edwards and Ade Adepitan MBE, two presenters that have already promoted disability sport on Channel 4 by fronting That Paralympic Show, echo this passion as they are set to also present during live coverage of the Paralympics themselves.
Edwards, a familiar face on British television as he has also presented T4 and currently presents Tool Academy on E4, one of Channel 4’s many digital channels, says: “I feel unbelievably lucky to be involved, really.
“I think what Channel 4 have shown, from the moment that they won the rights to broadcast the Paralympics, is that they are committed to producing the most comprehensive coverage of disability sport that this country has ever seen.”
Adepitan, a former wheelchair basketball player who won a bronze medal with Great Britain at the 2004 Summer Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece, adds: “It’s important that our coverage is fun and yet still has the gravitas to emotionally engage the viewer.
“This is the biggest project in Channel 4’s history and if we get it right, it will change the way that disability is viewed in Great Britain forever.”
These comments suggest that a lot of steps must be taken in providing the British viewing public with high quality coverage of the Paralympics, but such an attention to the finer details could leave disability sport with a far stronger reputation than it has ever had before across the country.
A big job could result in a bigger reward.
As the Paralympic blogger for Channel 4, James Ballardie has shared the thinking of the broadcaster behind an innovative method of helping viewers to understand a complex range of classifications and equations within team sports that is important in helping the Games to remain equal.
Lexi, a concept which will explain how each classification is broken down in athletics and swimming, for example, is going to be available on a range of different platforms.
Describing how Lexi will work, Ballardie says: “It’s our way of simplifying the classification system and it can show why teams (in wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball, amongst others) can be made up of players with differing disabilities.
“Explanation of each classification will also be offered through a series of flash cards and discussion between the presenter and guests will also do this. We will also have mobile phone apps and various things available too.”
By way of ending this focus on Channel 4’s Paralympic plans on a positive note, a desire to grow awareness of the Games is warmly embraced by the athletes that will be competing in London.
Jody Cundy MBE and Sarah Storey OBE, two track cyclists who have also swam in past editions of the Paralympics, share their excitement of Channel 4’s coverage as Paralympians who have won five gold medals and seven gold medals, respectively.
Cundy, who also features as part of Channel 4’s promotion, says: “Channel 4’s coverage of the Paralympic Games will revolutionize disability sport because it has such a good record with sport as a whole, whether you look at past years or at the present day.
“They are going to offer a fresh perspective and by showing a large range of disabled programming already, they are raising awareness.”
Storey says: “Coverage of some athletes has been more in-depth and there has been a much broader online presence of athletes and events than ever before.
“Channel 4 has attempted to show the personalities of the athletes and get them known for who they are as well as what they do, so that the people watching get a sense of the person as well as the athlete behind the person.”