The Chronicle’s View: Paralympics Deserves Equal Respect

Tickets to the 2002 Winter Olympic Games are difficult to come by?not to mention incredibly expensive.

Many Utahns who signed up to reserve tickets in advance didn’t even get the option of purchasing their first-choice tickets. And although tickets started at $20, most people actually paid significantly more than that for their chance to see a blurred figure riding the luge flying by at 65 miles per hour.

But when it comes to the 2002 Paralympic Games, the situation is very different.

After the Olympics, from March 7-16, more than 1,000 disabled athletes from 36 different countries will congregate in Utah to compete in the Paralympic Games.

Rather than the hundreds of dollars spectators shelled out to reserve tickets to the Olympics, Paralympic tickets will set spectators back about five bucks.

Five bucks. For the big spender, 10.

Consider what it takes to become a world-class athlete when one has a disability?the additional obstacles one has to overcome, the complexities added to sports on account of disabilities. Yet most Paralympians still compete in various levels of anonymity.

In honor of National Disability Awareness Month in October, the Center for Disability Services at the University of Utah held an education fair Wednesday. The fair featured booths from local groups and, among other things, various activities aimed at giving participants a taste of what it’s like to have a disability.

Blindfolded sandwich making and a wheelchair obstacle course were among the activities in which spectators could participate.

And if you think that’s hard, try alpine skiing or playing ice sledge hockey with a disability.

It’s an immense disappointment that the public doesn’t give the Paralympians even a fraction of the attention it gives traditional Olympians. These athletes are as amazing, inspirational and exciting to watch as any other athletes, and possibly more so.

Events like the disability education fair introduce more of the community to issues people with disabilities face. But the community needs to respond with affirmation and support.

Maybe some day, tickets to the Paralympics will be in as high demand as those to the traditional Games.

Paralympic tickets are available online at www.saltlake2002.com/paralympics or by calling 1 800-TICKETS.