Three agitos (agito = "I move" in Latin, from which the word agitate comes from) comprise the semi-crescent strokes that enflames the Paralympics logo replacing the five-rings of the regular Olympic flag.
This active symbol replaced the tae-guk (that were shaped like vertical ’comma’, based on original Zhongwen characters from the tai chi) used since the 60s until the last one in Beijing.
The Paralympics (aka, ParaOlympics) begins in London today in the same site where the recently completed London 2012 Olympics was held. I do not know of the exact similarity of events, but I was watching a newsclip of soccer players practicing their goal kicks blindfolded. The broadcast was in Chinese so I did not get the substance of the story, but I surmised that the disabled athletes were trying to add another sensibility other than visual to their perception.
Not too long ago, I watched a Chinese couple in a dance called Hand in Hand, where the female dancer has only one arm, and the male partner is one leg short wobbling on crutches. Well, wobbling is hardly appropriate to describe his moves. The performance was incredible, to say the least. (Hand in Hand is the title of the Seoul Olympics’ song that we sing in our Oral English class.)
Being a father of two children with ASD (Autism), I joined Saipan’s disabilities families, even advocating at one time for the change in the ’labeling’ of ’disability’ since it denotes a negative state of being rather than just the way it is for some folks as a matter of birth or accident. From ’disability’ to ’differently-abled’ was our suggestion, but some seemed to think that we are just splitting hairs to hide a limitation.
Incredible video clips have come across our table through the years, of folks overcoming the limitations of their ’disability’ to perform wonderful feats. There were the girls who did combined synchronized acrobatics whose moves demanded precision and timing. They were totally blind!
There was also the autistic young man who was flown over New York for a day, and then left to his own devices to record his memory of his trip. Not verbally or literally but visually, he sketched what he saw on the walls of his room, scenes after scences of sections of New York, in detail and with fealty to accuracy.
We also recall the autistic Dustin Hoffman character in the Rainman opposite the dashing younger brother played by Tom Cruise count the number of toothpicks in a container, or the sequence of appearances in a hand of suffled cards.
London is particularly sentimental re the paralympics. It was in the shadows of the ’48 Olympics that a medical officer organized games for those who suffered from spinal cord damage during WWII. That was a precursor to the paralympics.
Queen Elizabeth the Second will open the games (sans James Bond this time, I believe). She has been Queen for nearly 60 years, second only in longevity to Victoria who lasted for 63, and considered one of the stabilizing forces in the sunset of the British Empire. England’s national identity was launched by her namesake Elizabeth I whose reign began with the suspicion that the French supported her sister Mary Queen of Scot. Famous in English studies, Elizabeth the First was the daughter of infamous coupling of Henry VIII and Anne Bolyn. She is also known as the Virgin Queen for allegedly maintaining her maidenhood until death. An aside, but an interesting one!
The focus of the paralympics, of course, is the athletes from 165 countries. We are used to thinking of athletes as physical superstars, thus, the paralympics serve as a counterpoint, though the paralympic athletes’ preparation are no less rigorous than those of their counterparts in the regular Games, nor the efforts less super.
The plight of the disabled in society has been the subject of long held cultural discrimination against those we would rather keep at the back of the house. There are still some folks who refer to those born with Down syndrome as Mongoloids, a refection of anti-Sino sentiments of the past.
In a litigious society like that of the United States where getting a lawyer and heading for Court is often the path of first recourse, the CNMI is favored by the services of the folks of NMPASI re provisions of the disabilities’ laws. Those unsure of their rights and prerogatives as a person with disability (or, even in doubt on who is legally qualified by the definition), give the folks a call. They are in the yellow pages.
Devoid of the superstar reputation of some athletes, the Paralympics, nevertheless, will field national idols considered exceptional in their games. Twenty-five percent of the reporters covering the games for Channel 4 in England (that programmed 500 hours of broadcast) will be from the ranks of the differently-abled, a sign of the growing sign that those who once were avoided in normal society are simply aspects of the diversity of the social and natural order that we come to respect in our time. BTW, one of my grandsons has been diagnosed with ASD, now in today’s incidence ration, one out of 57. My son, 15 years ago was one out of 1500! Pretty soon, the diversity among the differently-abled will catch up with those on the abled list.
For now, let the Games begin.
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Jaime R. Vergara (firstname.lastname@example.org) previously taught at San Vicente Elementary School on Saipan and is currently a guest lecturer at Shenyang Aerospace University in China.