In general, sports have my complete disinterest. I just don't care what league has been going on now or who will win. Apparently I'm not that competitive. But the Tokyo Paralympic Games turn out to be a different story…
When I was a student, my housemates watched football fanatically. We haven't skipped a European Championship or World Cup. I've always joined them, because I thought it was fun. But where they mainly watched football, I mainly watched my housemates. Because people watching football are hilarious!
Once I attended a full sports tournament, all by myself: the World Snooker Championship. On the BBC, of course. But that was a one-year excess. Over the next few years, I stuck to watching a few games, for old times' sake. And then my portion of sport for the rest of that year was more than enough.
This year I surprised myself: on the 2nd day of the Paralympic Games I started to watch. First only the sports news of the NOS and the summaries later in the evening. Soon I went on with the backgrounds. Then followed by the podcast of Miss Paralympics, with interviews with various athletes who are now in Tokyo and former Paralympians. Before I knew it, I was watching live streams of matches all morning to see how “our” athletes are doing.
That's how I got to know surprising new sports. I had never heard of football 5-a-side (football for the blind) or boccia (pétanque for people with a motor disability). Fun fact: boccia is the only Paralympic sport that doesn't have an Olympic counterpart.
What I like is that the Paralympic Games seem so much more human than the Olympic Games, at least to me. While many Paralympic athletes are as much full-time athletes as many of their Olympic collegues, the Paralympic Games seem less commercial than their Olympic counterparts. That's what makes Paralympic athletes this approachable. Any of the Paralympic athletes could have been my neighbour. (And I never thought that about Olympic athletes.)
In interviews, athletes tell that the Paralympic Games are on the rise. In recent years there has been a professionalization. The materials are improving rapidly. The media pay more attention. And Paralympians are now also able to get a full-time paid job out of it. If you belong to the top 10, you can even make a very nice income from it. Just like their colleagues without disabilities. Anyway, I enjoy hearing their enthusiasm.
But the Payalympic Games also make me jealous. These athletes have a disability with which they can still sport at the world's top level. That's not something I aspire in the least, but I would like to be able to practice a sport at an amateur level. For example, I really like wheelchair basketball. But my energetic disability means that I can hardly do that, or even not at all. That hurts.
So for me, it remains with watching the Paralympic athletes. And it turns out that I like to do that. Life can get very weird!