The last years disabled athletes have shown up in the regular Olympic Games and claimed their right to participate side by side with everybody else.
A new article in the United Nation’s Human Rights Convention from 2006 helps for example the blind, deff and lame athletes to do so, but still there is a long way to go.
At the Olympic Games in Sydney, 2000, the blind runner Marla Runyan was the first legal blind athlete ever to compete in the games. That was in the 1.500 meters distance, where she made it to the final, where she became 8.th in the time 4.o8.30
Since that historical event, more disabled athletes have shown up all over the globe hoping to reach the Olympic Games. And with the on-going technical development of equipment designed to give physically handicapped people a better life, more will follow in their footsteps.
So says Prof. Dr. Mary A. Hums, sports management researcher from University of Louisville, USA. But so far, the rules of the different sport organizations curtail the disabled athletes from achieving their full potential:
“Every sport organization have their own rules when deciding wheter disabled should be allowed to compete along with the non-disabled. Somewhere the athletes are even encouraged to compete in for example the Paralympics and the Olympic Games at the same time - like in the case of the runner Marla Runyan. In other sports this is not possible. At the same time we see a growing discussion about what should be legal and what should not: Does artificial limbs count as unfair advantages for these disabled athletes or not?”
This discussion has been made highly relevant as the handicapped South African runner Oscar Pistorius has declared his ambition about going to the Olympic Games in China 2008. Oscar Pistorius, who has no legs and thus move on leg protheses, is curently only 0,5 seconds from qualifying to the Olympics on the distance of 400 meters.
The Charter of Human Rights starts to mention persons with disabilities
In the autumn of 2006 an Ad-Hoc Committee approved a draft text of the Human Rights Convention “On the Rights of Persons with Disabilities“. The text was adopted during the 61st session of the 192 nation General Assembly in December 2006. The Convention aims to ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy human rights on an equal basis with others.
It opened for ratification on March 30th 2007, and so far 117 member states have signed the convention numbered 30.5, and seven states have ratified it. According to the UN rules, the convention needs to be ratified by at least 20 member states in order to enter into force.
But that is far from the only problem, Prof. Dr. Hums explains:
“The greatest challenge right now is that people should know, this new convention exists. Even when they do, it takes years to implement the text in national laws worldwide. We have allready seen a deff swimmer and a blind runner in the Olympic Games. But the great organisations as IOC and FIFA may still design their own rules about whether disabled people have the right to compete side by side with everybody else. What is needed is to take the disabled athletes far more serious than now. Acces for good training fascilities and professional coaching is a logical start on that work”.
Artificial limbs, as in the case of the South African Oscar Pistorius are though hard to achieve for everybody, Prof. Dr. Hums admits:
“Prosthesis as those who Pistorius have, costs about $ 40.000. That is a lot of money, and not all disabled athletes may get that amount of money to follow their dreams of becoming olympic champions”.