Although the park lived up to all my expectations, it wasn’t the spectacular stadium, the buzzing atmosphere or the ridiculously upbeat volunteers that impressed me the most – it was the athletes themselves. And beyond that, the technology that enabled them to achieve things you wouldn’t think possible.
Growing up, a friend of mine had only one arm, so I’ve seen the clunky, uncomfortable prosthetics that are available. Yet here the athletes were sporting sleek, hi-tech attachments that are so advanced that they have enabled disabled athletes to compete at a similar level to the able-bodied. Oscar Pistorius, who broke a world record during my visit to the stadium, is a prime example, becoming the first double amputee to qualify for an Olympic semi-final.
Other technology that can’t be ignored is the F1 inspired wheelchairs designed by BMW for the GB wheelchair basketball team, or the Ghost glove that trains Paralympic swimmers by offering vibrating feedback on form and posture. This Paralympics has really shown how far medical technology has come.
As such, technology has essentially dominated this Paralympics. You only need to see the headlines detailing the French complaints about GB’s ‘wheel wizardry’ during the cycling or Pistorius’ attack on Alan Oliveira following his defeat in the 200m final to see how contentious this topic is becoming.
The fact is, technology and medical science is always going to keep advancing and, when Rio comes around in four years time, I’ve no doubt that the Paralympic athletes will be able to jump that little bit higher, run that little bit faster and last that little bit longer. What shouldn’t be overlooked in all this is the talent, perseverance and courage of those taking part – at the end of the day it’s these people that win the medals, not their blades.