Beau Wright, Special Olympics 2013
Dear NBC, why no coverage of the other 7,000 Olympic athletes?
Every two years, the world comes together for a few weeks to celebrate the accomplishments of some of our greatest athletes. Athletes that have trained their whole lives to be the very best they can be. Athletes that have sacrificed, prepared and prevailed. Athletes that inspire – that remind us that dreams really do come true. And when these athletes step onto the global stage, we all watch with great anticipation – or do we?
In 2015, 7,000 athletes from 170 countries will gather for the Special Olympics’ World Games in the city of Los Angeles, CA. The athletes will compete in 25 different sporting events and be cheered on by nearly 600,000 spectators, coaches and volunteers. There will be plenty of medals for sure, but the real victories will be a result of the athletes overcoming obstacles and in doing so proving that anything is possible when you are brave in the attempt. Sadly, this display of bravery won’t be seen by people all over the world like the Olympic Games in Sochi – because this is the Special Olympic World Games and it has yet to find a home on network television.
And while this is not surprising in a world that can still find justification in the use of the “r-word”, my greatest frustration arises from the fact that you, NBC, the same network that has exclusive rights to airing the Olympic Games, will also be airing the 2014 Paralympic Games with an unprecedented 50 hours of network coverage.
For the record, I believe your decision to air the Paralympic Games is more than good news. The athletes, who have risen above their physical disabilities and visual impairments to catapult to the top of their sport, deserve this global recognition and I, along with my family will be watching with great anticipation. My issue with this decision stems from the fact that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities deserve this same opportunity to show the world what they are capable of.
More than 200 million people worldwide are living with an intellectual disability – nearly 6.5 million in the United States alone. It’s time we recognize these people as valuable, capable and worthy. It’s time we stop marginalizing their abilities and embrace the fact that their differences are an integral part of the fabric of our society. It’s time we, as citizens of the United States, give these 6.5 million people the same opportunities every other citizen is afforded through education, medical care, employment opportunities, social acceptance and even our media coverage. It’s time that people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities’ accomplishments are treated with the same importance and recognition that we give our typically developing population. It’s time that the Special Olympics World Games is given network coverage just like the Olympic and Paralymic Games.
Undeniably, one of the most memorable moments of the 2014 Olympics so far, has been the moment when Canadian mogul skier, Alex Bilodeau, clinched a second Olympic gold medal while his brother, Frederic, who happens to have cerebral palsy, cheered him on from the stands. This story has inspired our nation and so many others. Just imagine for a moment the inspiration we could all gleam from watching Alex cheer for his brother, Frederic, as he tried for gold at the Special Olympic World Games.
Amy Wright (proud mother of Beau & Bitty, Special Olympic athletes)