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Page last updated at 08:06 GMT, Friday, 5 September 2008 09:06 UK

Why the Paralympics matter

Beijing Paralympics

The Paralympics celebrate 60 years of competition in Beijing, and the British team are out to grab a top three spot in the medal table.

Ahead of the action, BBC Sport presenters and pundits explain why they will be watching.

Clare Balding
Clare Balding
BBC Sport presenter

For the most part, sports coverage changes the way they feel but I believe the Paralympics is one of very few events that genuinely change the way people think.

On a pure sporting level, the Paralympics have improved monumentally

Clare Balding
It challenges the accepted view of what the human mind and the human body are capable of.

This will be the third time that I have presented the Paralympics and I get more feedback from the viewing public on this than anything else.

Some are amazed, others intrigued and many viewers who have a disability themselves are thrilled that they can watch role models with whom they can identify.

On a pure sporting level, the Paralympics have improved monumentally over the past decade. Times are better, finals more competitive and the general standard is much higher.

Ade Adepitan
Ade Adepitan
BBC Sport summariser
Former Paralympic wheelchair basketball star

You might think the Paralympics is just a lot of hard luck stories and tales of triumph over adversity, but it's not. It's about the sport.

Ade Adepitan
Adepitan and the men's wheelchair basketball team won bronze in Athens
Yes, there are participants who have overcome unimaginable circumstances as a result of war, accidents and prejudice to compete. But you often find that at an Olympics as well.

My reason for you to be glued to the Paralympics is because if you are a sporting purist, this is the Games for you. These athletes will run, jump, throw, swim, push and compete to be the best they can, and all for little or no money.

You have athletes in the wheelchair marathon completing the course in one hour and 20 minutes, hand cyclists hitting 30mph around the roads, powerlifters lifting weights comparable to their able-bodied counterparts, and much more besides.

Some of the athletes are good enough to compete in both the Olympics and the Paralympics - Natalie du Toit was fourth in the World Open Water Championships and qualified for the event in Beijing where she finished a very creditable 16th.

Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson
Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson
BBC Sport summariser
Winner of 11 Paralympic athletics gold medals

The Paralympics are yet another chance for the whole of the UK to be proud to be British and support the team as they chase gold medals.

The atmosphere at a Paralympics is completely different

Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson
The achievement of Team GB at the Olympics was amazing - but with the success of the Olympic team comes greater pressure on the Paralympic team.

In Atlanta in 1996, the Olympic team had a disappointing time and it gave the Paralympic achievements higher prominence. But when the Olympic team has done well, it means the Paralympic team have to match their achievements.

As a former competitor, there is nothing quite like the Paralympics.

Athletics has a big World Championships, but the atmosphere at a Paralympics is completely different and is something that will remain with me for the rest of my life.

Dave Gordon
Dave Gordon
BBC Sport head of major events

The Paralympics is the pinnacle of competition for elite athletes with a disability and at the BBC we should be offering viewers, listeners and users a chance to taste the best possible sport on offer.

The BBC has been involved in Paralympic coverage for many years and part of our remit as a public service broadcaster is to reflect the interests and tastes of every group in society.

We are proud to be increasing the content on offer across all platforms.

Steve Cram
Steve Cram
BBC Sport presenter

Anything which celebrates the best, the ultimate, is always worth watching and appreciating, whether that is music, art or sport.

Most people on the street couldn't do what some of these athletes are able to achieve

Steve Cram
At the Paralympics, you get to see people at the peak of their talents. They are the best in their own field and the performance element of the Games is now paramount.

Part of the issue is getting people to understand the high levels of performance which the athletes are achieving.

Some people watch the London Marathon and think it is easy but when they try jogging along with the runners for an hour or so, that's a different story.

At the Paralympics the levels of performance have improved so much, and most people on the street couldn't do what some of these athletes are able to achieve.

Marc Woods
Marc Woods
BBC Sport summariser
Former Paralympic swimmer

You should care about the Paralympics for the same reasons you care about the Olympics.

It is a tremendous sporting event, a group of people competing for the ultimate prize in their sport.

Darragh McDonald
Ireland's Darragh McDonald, minus his prosthetic legs, will swim in Beijing
However, the Paralympics can be a complicated and confusing event to watch and sometimes the disability of an athlete can mask their sporting ability.

Athletes like Oscar Pistorius and Natalie du Toit do much to help with this and hopefully, with the team the BBC has assembled, we can make the Beijing Paralympics more accessible to the viewing public then ever before.

If you enjoy watching sport you are usually willing to take the time to learn something about the sport and so enhance your enjoyment. My hope is that you take time to learn about the Paralympics and enjoy the extensive coverage that the BBC is offering.

We should celebrate anything we are good at in Great Britain, and Paralympic sport is something we have proven to be exceptional at over the years. I am sure the Beijing Paralympics will be no different.

see also
Team GB 'to scrap for top three'
04 Sep 08 |  Paralympics
Where will Paralympic medals be won?
04 Sep 08 |  Paralympics
Paralympic challengers
02 Sep 08 |  Paralympics
History of the Paralympics
04 Sep 08 |  Paralympics
A-Z of Paralympic classification
28 Aug 08 |  Paralympics
Paralympics on the BBC
25 Aug 08 |  Paralympics
GB Paralympic team for Beijing
24 Jul 08 |  Paralympics


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