2016 has been a special year for sports in Indian history. After the girls prove their mettle on the largest international sports platform at Rio Olympics, now the specially-abled Indian athletes are shining bright at the ongoing Rio Paralympics. Till date, India’s Paralympic athletes have won four medals in Rio, including two golds, one silver and one bronze outshining their Olympic counterparts who have won just two medals last month ironically delivering the country’s worst performance in last 12 years. These specially-abled athletes have not just won more medals they are also making new records simultaneously setting new benchmarks in the history of sports.
Despite their remarkable performances, we heard about the discriminating discussions like Paralympians could perform better at the Rio Paralympics because the Olympics competition is much tougher and Indian athletes need to compete with the athletes from around 200 countries. Fiinovation doesn’t agree with such opinions as the reasons of applaud being sung for the Paralympic athletes are just not limited to their remarkable performance. As their fight for acceptance and recognition is larger. These athletes don’t only fight their physical disabilities rather they also face tougher challenges related to lack of training, infrastructure and funds as compared to their Olympic counterparts.
Many paralympic athletes are doing remarkably and rank among the top 10 position in their specialized sports category. Still, they often face discriminations from the society related to their disabilities and gender. However, despite all the odds our Paralympic athletes have crossed all the hurdles to carve a niche in their fields raising the Indian flag high on the international podium.
In the cricket obsessed nation, the Paralympians are fighting the battle of discrimination not only from society but within the country of not getting the due credit for their talent and credibility. Even after their stupendous performances neither they got the deserved media attention nor any acknowledgement of their efforts like their counterparts. It is only after the issue got highlighted on social media and news channels did many ministers announced the prize money for our Paralympians. Like a tweet from the Madhya Pradesh’s Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announcing a bonus cash reward of 4 million rupees ($59,795) on Deepa Malik has initiated the change of attitude towards the Paralympic athletes. Still India has a long way to go and treat its every athlete on the same platform irrespective of their physical abilities.
Lack of support from corporates have also been the cause of concern since only two companies IndusInd Bank and Adidas released campaigns supporting the Indian Paralympians in comparison to a plethora of companies releasing numerous campaigns supporting the atheltes participating at Olympics. In an applauding CSR move, the IndusInd Bank along with GoSports has provided coaching and training to 18 paralympians and eleven of them have represented India at the 2016 Rio Paralympics. The bank released the ‘Jeet Ka Halla’ campaign as an integrated media activity extending support to the para-athletes community. But the question remains same. Equally talented, specially abled, and better performers. Still why there is less applause for the para-athletes than there is for the able-bodied sportspersons?
Anil Ramchandran, Chief Marketing Officer of IndusInd Bank, voiced his concern over the hoopla about the abled athletes. He said, “The struggles that the para-athletes go through and the efforts they put in, even to get to the training session, are no less than the able-bodied athletes. Why don’t the stadiums fill up for them?”. I hope brands start looking at these heroes as able brand ambassadors for their products,” added.
Fiinovation urges the corporates to ride the wave of change and changing the mindsets of country towards Paralympic athletes by contributing their CSR funds and endorsing Paralmypians with the similar vigor and enthusiasm. Respect and honor for bringing them to the mainstream of the society.
By – Manisha Bhatia
Media & Communications – Fiinovation