Thursday, December 9

The perfection of imperfection: the Paralympic Games are showing that the way can still be found | Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games


WWe are all still in quarantine here in Tokyo, which means we can go between our hotel and the places and that’s it. So one of my highlights this week was when the organizers got on a boat, a Covid-protected boat, to show us the sights.

It was great to go out and happen that our journey took us past the Paralympic Village. As we approached, I picked up the phone and called Gaz Choudhry, who came out with some members of the wheelchair basketball team and greeted us. We filmed a bit and it was a lot of fun, it was one of those moments where you have a connection with someone and that has been a little more difficult to find in these Games.

I’ve known Gaz since he was 11 years old and he played for the London Titans. It was that boy who came up to you and begged you to play face to face with him, to give him some time because he wanted to improve. I’d be a wreck after a game, but we’d just play and play together. He is now not only a leading player on the GB Paralympic Games wheelchair basketball team, but also their coach after Haj Bhania hired Covid and returned to the UK in quarantine.

Gaz has always been the type to want all the responsibility, and now he has it. GB got off to a good start against Algeria, but was beaten by Germany on Friday and needs to go again to secure a place in the top four in their group, which would take them to the quarter-finals. It’s going to be exhausting for Gaz mentally and physically as well, but it’s a great opportunity.

Making perfection out of imperfection, what I think they call wabi-sabi here, it was one of the themes of the opening ceremony of the Games this week, which I loved. It’s funny because when I was a gamer, opening ceremonies could seem a bit of a burden. You would feel like, “I am here to do a job, I am here to try to win medals” and when you go to an opening ceremony, you are in a long line waiting to continue. It can take hours until they call your country and then you go out and sit for a couple of hours and get dehydrated. For me, it was a kind of homework.

This year, however, it was different. I was presenting Channel 4 coverage which was a privilege in itself; me, a comprehensive school boy from East London. But I also enjoyed watching the whole ceremony, all the effort that the hosts had put into it and being able to get an idea of ​​what Tokyo’s vision was for the Games. The ceremony was based on a piece of music, theater and dance called The Little One-Winged Plane. In it, the plane, played by a girl who uses a wheelchair, learned from those around her to be able to fly on her own terms, in her own way. I think that kind of idea, of finding your own individual strength, of having confidence in who you are, is a good progression of the Paralympic message.

The small one-wing plane, starring 13-year-old Yui Wago, was instrumental in the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Paralympic Games.
The small one-wing plane, starring 13-year-old Yui Wago, was instrumental in the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Paralympic Games. Photograph: Solid Costume Bag / EPA

I was also interested in hearing what the IPC was saying about WeThe15, an initiative to test and use para-sport to help bring about social change. For me, it’s about time. It is time for the IPC and disability sport to start reaching out and trying to inspire change. Not just the change in western countries, but globally. I have traveled all over the world and have seen how difficult it is in developing countries. In Africa, I believe that 70% of all disabled children do not have access to a decent education. That’s crazy.

Not having access to education leads to poverty, that means they are more likely to be abused, their death rate will be much higher. It is truly heartbreaking to see how other disabled people are struggling. So the Paralympic Games are so, so important: that we use the profile, the platform we have to improve the lives of other people with disabilities. We have that power. We have enormous power.

Another highlight of the week was seeing Lee Pearson win his 12th gold medal in a Paralympic Games. I think that puts him third on the all-time list of the most successful British Paralympians and to have that level of consistency is incredible. Lee is funny, he’s a character, and he once taught me to ride. He is such a powerful, outspoken and confident person. When you think about what he’s been through with his disability and how he was treated when he was younger, he must sometimes pinch himself and think, “Oh my days, have I really accomplished this?”

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I think Lee is as good an example of what para-sport is right now, the progression that these Games are trying to show. If you think about his history and the level of his disability, he is like that little airplane. He found his wings, he learned to fly. Even with a broken wing, you can still find a way; you improvise and you do it your way. Finding perfection from imperfection.

Ade Adepitan presents the Tokyo Paralympic Games highlights show today at 5pm on Channel 4


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