The Importance of the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi

In 1980, the Olympic Games were ablaze with controversy.

The Cold War was still going strong, with America and the USSR at each other’s throats.  To make things worse, the hosting of the 1980 Olympics came down to two locations:

Los Angles, California or Moscow, Russia.

Whoever won, problems were sure to follow.  In the end, Russia was declared the site of 1980 games.  Jimmy Carter would end up withdrawing the US’s participation due to Russia having troops in Afghanistan.  Many countries went on to follow America’s boycott, leaving the 1980 Summer Olympics to be the smallest Olympics in decades.

Considering the Olympics is about breaking down global barriers, one could view the 1980 Games as a bit of a failure.  Sadly, this global fracture extended into the 1980 Paralympics as well.

While being interviewed about hosting the 1980 Summer Olympics, Communist Party representative Leonid Breschnev was asked whether or not his country would be participating in the 1980 Paralympic Games.

His response was this: “There are no invalids in the USSR”.

Needless to say, the 1980 Paralympics did not take place in Russia.  Instead, they happened in Arnhem, Netherlands (where Russia did not compete).  The truth is, people with disabilities did not find much hospitality in the USSR.  After WW2, millions of injured soviets returned home to find themselves considered outcasts in the public eye.

This continued well into the 80s.  In fact, it was not until 1987 that people with disabilities were allowed to appear on TV in Russia (thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev).  Since that time, the accessibility conditions and equal rights have slowly, but surely improved.

Finally, in 1988, the Soviet Union joined the Paralympics in both summer and winter games.   This would also turn out to be their last games as the Soviet Union dissolved before the next Paralympics happened.

The 2014 Sochi Paralympics

Knowing the history behind the events leading up to it, one can see just how big of a deal the 2014 Sochi Paralympics are.  A country that once denied even having people with disabilities is now hosting the games.

In addition to hosting the games, Russia has recently made additional efforts in providing accessibility and fairness for its citizens.  In 2011, the government launched a multi-billion dollar project aimed at improving healthcare and education.  Included in this was accessibility projects.

While there is surely still work to be done, it seems to be movement in the right direction.  The 2014 Sochi Paralympics start today!  Watch them online or check your local listings.

And for further coverage of the games, don’t forget to come back to Rollx Vans, one of the nation’s leaders in wheelchair van manufacturing.

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