Saturday, 18 August 2012

Questions Of Sport

Soon the Paralympics will begin, although some things will not be quite the same as aspects of the other Olympics.  The picture above is that of Stoke Mandeville Station to which I once sent many parcels and some passengers.

It is reported that Usain Bolt, one of the heroes of the track has announced that unless the UK changes its tax laws relating to earnings made in the UK by those from overseas in sport and entertainment he may not return here.

One of the lesser known features of the recent Games is that amongst the Diktats laid down by the International Olympics Committee for the UK to be hosts was a temporary revocation of these taxation requirements. 

The irony of athletes only being willing to compete if the taxation deals were right in an event largely paid for out of either present taxation or future taxation in the form of state borrowing seems to have lost on Mr. Bolt and perhaps others.

I wonder whether some of the joy and rapture shown by the sports men and women on winning medals may have had something to do with future sponsorship deals and media rights.  Those of us who follow UK soccer will know full well that these issues are often critical to which player joins which club.

The BBC ran a programme related to the Paralympics centring on Dr. Ludwig Guttman at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in the 1940’s and later and his work on enabling seriously injured and handicapped persons to engage in ordinary activities including games and sports.

This was allied to other neurological work done in other places in the search to give not just life but a meaningful one within the community to all those suffering from severe impairments for one thing and another.  The implications of this were far from fully realised at the time or even now to a great extent.

Around forty years ago in the early 1970’s because of new facilities being created for the education of the handicapped I attended a conference at Stoke Mandeville about the developments that were in train in that field and what the future might hold.

It was becoming apparent that not only were many children now surviving but often their expectation of life was rising.  Once having a severe handicap would have meant either an early death or a very limited lifespan with little capability.

All this was about to change.  With a little knowledge of demographics and statistics it dawned on me that the long term implications were much greater than most people realised.  It was not just a question of more money and a few more local specialist facilities; it was a lot bigger than that.

Whilst those of us who could run the figures, work out some of the logistics and recognise the wider social and employment considerations realised that it was going to become a lot more complex and changes would follow across the board it was very difficult to get others to accept just how much would have to be done.

The trouble was that while politicians were happy to use the handicapped for vote winning photo opportunities or being seen to be “do gooding” when shove came to push there were always well down the agenda for much in the way of real progress.

If the Paralympics allows some realisation of the much greater and wider needs than those of forty years ago it might have some benefit.  Although those taking part I suspect will not need any major tax breaks.

Only some recognition of their capabilities and the potential contribution they might make.


  1. Here in the US where Darwinism(the social type) is enshrined as a central tenet of the political parties (the Democrats are more tasteful in their delivery), the abilities and the contributions of the handicapped are given only the finest lip service.

  2. "If the Paralympics allows some realisation of the much greater and wider needs than those of forty years ago it might have some benefit."

    I suspect it won't change much. Only personal experience seems to make a difference.

  3. All the above applies with equal force to the aged.