As the social recognition of the Paralympic Games becomes wider and the popularity of the Paralympians, particularly the medalists, grows rapidly, the severe training and human endeavor of the athletes as well as the devotion and support of their families and friends are more and more widely reported.
On the other hand, the touching human stories and inspiration which they give to the general public have begun to be seen as having an unintended negative impact to the actual social inclusion of persons with disability, as those stories and the mode in which they are reported, tend to make the medalists more and more divorced from the “ordinary citizens” with disabilities.
As part of the efforts to mitigate such a divorce and to fill the gap between the success stories of the elite athletes and the frustration of the masses, one could make some deep analysis on the nature of the inspiration or heightened sentiment which one draws from the achievements of the athletes with disabilities.
In doing so, the author of this article divides the origins of such ”inspiration” or sentiment into five dimensions, namely 1 acceptance and endurance of disabilities, 2 overcoming disabilities by making achievements, 3 conversion of or compensation for disabilities, 4 protest and impeachment and 5 gratitude for support and sense of co-habitation or symbiosis.
Interaction occurs between the media and public opinion, and understanding content reported by the media and its trends can serve as basic data constituting people’s ideas and opinions, and is useful in investigating social interest and viewpoints. During a games period like the Paralympics, the attraction of the games as well as various details stemming from the games is reported by the media. As the 2020 games approach, this study attempts to examine the kinds of issues identified during the Paralympics period, and changes observed since the 2016 Summer Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Referring to analyses of three researchers of the Paralympic Research Group, the author systematically categorizes media content of newspaper coverage during the PyeongChang Paralympic Games period and ultimately establishes 11 categories.
Upon calculating the ratios of coverage of these categories in 6 newspaper’s articles, the author determined that the most frequently covered categories during the games period were the “evaluations, analyses and recommendations based on the game results and achievements” and “analyses of game outcomes and technical theories.” There was an increase in the number of articles featuring the results of the Japanese team as well as strong athletes and teams of other countries, and more attention was paid to sports aspects of the games. The performance of Japanese athletes is believed to have prompted the question as to how they could achieve such fine results and to have drawn attention to elite sports measures for improving international competitiveness. Furthermore, throughout the coverage, reporting of “recommendations for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games” was observed, and although some differences between the summer and winter games were noted, many suggestions for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games were evident.
As Japan performed well, a characteristic viewpoint evident in the reporting of the winter sports was the analyses of sports equipment provided by Japanese companies as being precise and sophisticated, such as the development of chair ski technology. The prominent featuring of Japanese “craftsmanship” of manufacturers including SMEs as playing a key role in supporting sports may also be considered characteristics of the winter Paralympic sports.
Furthermore, the training of young athletes and generational change were raised as issues. In this Paralympic games, media coverage featuring the performance of young athletes such as Momoka Muraoka and Gurimu Narita is believed to have resulted in more attention being focused on the training of athletes.
As a result, much of the media coverage focused on the competitiveness of sports in this Paralympic games. This is believed to be due in part to an attempt in the media to pay attention not only to “how athletes are overcoming their disabilities to tackle sports” but also to convey the attraction of the Paralympics as sports. Meanwhile, it is considered that discussion concerning the uniqueness of the Paralympic games, the importance of conveying their essence, and the media’s stance on the Paralympic games will continue in the future without placing undue emphasis on the exact same content as the Olympic games.
This study is a report on the research results of “Study of the Paralympics and Broadcasting,” a joint study by NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute and the Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center. Research in Japan concerning Paralympics broadcasting had mainly been that illuminating the situation on the side of the sender of the media, such as changes over time relating to broadcast times and treatment within programming. Meanwhile, there is not much research evident relating to the situation on the side of the receiver, such as viewer interpretations
and attitudes held with respect to Paralympics broadcasting. Viewers do not necessarily interpret broadcasting in accordance with the sender’s intent, and it can be said that when viewed from the position of the public’s perspective of the Paralympics being created from amongst diverse and overlapping ‘interpretation,’clarification of receiver interpretations and attitudes is important as a foundation in order to pursue the question of effects and functions of Paralympics broadcasting.
In the joint study mentioned above, NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute and the Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center conducted an online questionnaire survey targeting 1,375 persons with disabilities and 500 able-bodied persons 18 years and older. Two hypotheses were established for the design of the study: (1) Is there a possibility that persons with disabilities have a general tendency to view Paralympians and broadcasting about Paralympics as subjects that do not pertain to them? （2） Can a difference be observed in the enthusiasm and viewing attitude of persons with disabilities depending on the attributes of individual athletes such as the type of disability or status of sports participation?
The results of the research suggest that the interpretations and attitudes of persons with disabilities towards the broadcasting tend to be different depending on the type of disability. While persons with visual or hearing disabilities displayed comparatively positive viewing attitudes in general, persons with mental or intellectual disabilities had a general tendency to display comparatively negative viewing attitudes. With respect to the hypothesis of whether there is a possibility that persons with disabilities have a general tendency to view Paralympians and broadcasting about the Paralympics as subjects that do not pertain to them, these results can be said to lead to the opinion that there is a need to discuss the situation taking into consideration contexts that differ according to each kind of disability
rather than addressing general tendencies in a single bundle. Furthermore, the results also hinted at the possibility that viewing enthusiasm and viewing attitude are determined by not only the type of disability, but also by factors such as status of sports participation and connection with others.
Further study based on the results of this research into what kind of meaning Paralympics broadcasting has for society and using that as a foundation to advance debate on what form Paralympics broadcasting should take are tasks for further
Through analysis and examination of the results of Study of the Paralympics and Broadcasting, a joint study conducted by NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute and the Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center focusing on interpretations and attitudes of persons with disabilities in regard to the broadcasting of the PyeongChang Paralympic Games, this study aims to shed light on one aspect of the “logic of the receiver” in regard to broadcasting and, based on this logic, to reexamine the issue of “reproduction of a uniform sense of value of the human body”discussed in research to date.
There is an abundance of knowledge concerning media research of the Paralympics, particularly on analyses of
content reported by newspapers. While quantitative analyses and the categorization of articles have been conducting, this research has indicated the possibility of the reproduction of “a uniform sense of value of the human body” where the body of an able-bodied person is regarded as a sound body, and a body with a disability is in a relatively inferior position. Until now, this point at issue has been analyzed through approaches to resources, production
processes, and distribution processes within the structure of media. The concept of sense of value, however, is not formed by the media in a fixed manner. If we adopt the viewpoint that it is constructed dynamically in a mutual relationship of the receiver’s interpretation and attitude, we can assume that this issue should be reexamined in light of analyses of interpretations and attitudes of media receivers. Furthermore, even in the context of “logic of the receiver,” there is a possibility that sense of value unconsciously structured in society through approaches from the
viewpoint of persons with disabilities can be determined in regard to Paralympics broadcasting.
Results of the survey suggested that attitudes of persons with disabilities toward broadcasting of the Paralympics had a tendency toward bipolarity between those who identified with Paralympic Broadcasting and Paralympian those who felt the games did not pertain to them, and also suggested the possibility that differences in awareness of social frameworks such as external relationships, aspirations, status of participation in sports activities and disability determined viewing attitude. Furthermore, the bipolarity of viewing attitudes manifested itself as a difference in
interpretation of the view of “overcoming” disabilities.
If we consider the premise that the body of an able-bodied person is superior in value as leading to the formation of a concept of “overcoming disabilities, we can infer from results of the survey that when persons with disabilities accept a “uniform sense of value of the human body,” they might view broadcasting of the Paralympics as pertaining to themselves.
Adopting this viewpoint, the indication that broadcasting of the Paralympics reproduces “a uniform sense of value of the human body” is appropriate. However, it was inferred that it was possible to view “overcoming” as not necessarily the value of ‘ “overcoming” the inferior body of a person with a disability and becoming more closely approximated to the body of an able-bodied person’ in a uniform sense, but rather as a manifestation in a person with a disability of an “absolute body outlook” involving the “creation of a new horizon for that individual’s unique body.”
Examining whether media views and statements, which have traditionally been indicated as being able to reproduce a uniform sense of value of the human body from Paralympic media coverage, can effect change in such systems and senses of value is an important task for future investigation.
The 28th Workshop “The Paralympics and Accessibility”
Date： February 20, 2018, 10:00-12:00
Venue： Conference Hall at the Nippon Foundation Bldg., Tokyo
Theme： ”The Paralympics and Accessibility”
Speaker： Mark Todd, Senior Accessibility Consultant, access all areas
Marnie Peters, President, Marnie Peters & Co
Preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games are underway
both in terms of the hardware, such as construction of related facilities, and the software, such as establishment of systems for managing the Games. In both of these aspects, full consideration needs to be given to ensure accessibility for spectators who will gather from around the world. In particular, there needs to be careful
consideration to enable people with disabilities to have smooth access in watchingand participating in the Paralympic Games.
Important perspectives in ensuring such accessibility will be “equality” so that everyone can share the same experience, “dignity” so that older people and people with disabilities are not inconvenienced, and “functionality” that enables comfortable use of facilities. In terms of the hardware, Tokyo should use as reference points what
was tackled and put into practice at London, Sochi, and Rio de Janeiro. In terms of the software, designing easy-to-understand websites for online ticketing will be one of the important aspects. For the Paralympians, accessibility needs to be considered from various perspectives including easy use of facilities, smooth movement and
transport, and emergency disaster response.
In the run-up to the Tokyo 2020 Games, various kinds of preparations, including the installation of lifts, will be undertaken individually. To avoid situations that might hamper users, there needs to be systematically well-coordinated, universally accessible hardware and software in every aspect of the Games.