In 1972 at the Heidelberg Games, Murlikant Petkar swam the 50 meter freestyle in a world record time of 37.331 seconds to give India her first ever Gold. In the 1984 Paralympic games, Joginder Singh Bedi won three individual medals, silver in the men’s shot put and two bronzes in the Discus and javelin throws. The javelin throw event in the same game saw another Indian medal winner – a silver obtained by Bhimrao Kesarkar. No other Indian has won more than one medal in the same Olympics, or Paralympics. Despite all these glories these sportsmen still have to vie with the ‘normal’ sportspersons for visibility and recognition. Their struggles and successes lay beyond the limelight, while the media hype goes for other sporting events. Unlike the Olympics that was widely covered, the Rio Paralympics did not have any television coverage in India as it failed to attract any national broadcasters. With no television coverage, a city-based NGO who works with the para athletes today highlighted the plight of the para athletes in India and appealed for a proper media coverage to give the athletes their due credit. Only two companies — IndusInd Bank and Adidas — released campaigns for the India’s Paralympians. It was a good opportunity for brands to show their solidarity with the Indian para-athletes who are representing us in Rio against all the odds. Other brands should have taken the initiative to do the same for the para-athletes, where nothing is being done. Not supporting our athletes is not a good idea, but not supporting our para-athletes is definitely a bad idea. In a competitive world like this, it is in the interest of the brand to do good things in the society. Taking up a cause like Paralympics, is not just Corporate Social Responsibility, it’s good Corporate Social Responsibility.
The India is also working on the promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities by gaining more media coverage recently. Pointing out Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the Indian contingent that will participate in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games for supporting our athletes and gaining more attentions in the India. Not only the India’s leader supports for more media coverage, the public is also the supporter. According to a report in Hindustan Times, Bipasha Basu Singh Groverhas, our country’s actor decided to sponsor an Indian para-athlete for the upcoming Summer Paralympics 2020, which will be held in Tokyo, Japan. Moreover, a lot of the countries had its public broadcaster telecast the Paralympic Games: Seven Network’s agreement with the Australian Paralympic Committee delivers free broadcast television and subscription television rights, and expands beyond television to Seven’s digital platforms, including online and Hybrid Broadband Broadcast Television. Seven’s agreement with the Australian Paralympic Committee reflects the importance of corporations with companies to media coverage of the Paralympic Games and athletes with disabilities. As a country, the India has also attracted world sponsors to Paralympic team. BHP Billiton, the world’s largest diversified natural gas resources company was the Indian Paralympic Team’s official sponsor for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. The sponsors support of the Indian team is not only a natural extension of our association with Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games, but is also a recognition of the extraordinary achievements of our nation’s Paralympic athletes.
The cooperation with companies proves to be the most plausible solution to gain media coverage for the Paralympic Games. Wilfried Lemke, the Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace, has called on the worldwide media to give greater coverage to Paralympic sports and other sports for people with disabilities. He added that he hopes to convince the media to broadcast Champions League Games and Olympic Games, raising the visibility of Paralympic athletes and other athletes with disabilities. The India also believes sport truly has the power to turn stereotypes of disability on their head – portraying individuals with disabilities as mobile, empowered, and capable. Key to this societal shift is the importance of media coverage of the Paralympic Games and athletes with disabilities. Stereotypes are only broken when one is able to tangibly see an alternative. Our global viewership and ability to show the world our strengths and capabilities must continue to grow.