Controversies at the 2012 Summer Paralympics

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A number of notable controversies and concerns associated with the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London, UK were the subject of public debate and media commentary.

NBC coverage[edit]

The US broadcaster NBC faced continuing criticism over its decision to not broadcast the opening ceremony of the Paralympics and also for the limited amount of total footage of the Games broadcast.[1][2][3] NBC showed a total of five and a half hours of Paralympic footage in the United States.[4] Campaigners were quoted in the Daily Mail as saying "It's a sign of disrespect, especially to those military veterans who are competing. Attitudes are supposed to have changed since the days of Vietnam, when veterans were ignored. What message does this send?"[2]

Victoria Arlen reclassification[edit]

Just prior to the start of the games, 17-year-old swimmer Victoria Arlen's level of disability was reclassified, resulting in her no longer being eligible for the games.[5][6] An International Paralympic Committee (IPC) spokesperson was quoted as "She was reclassified on Monday and found non-eligible; she did not meet the eligibility criteria for her chosen sport."[5]

Following a successful appeal, Arlen was allowed to compete in her original S6 class.[7] Of the decision she said "It has been a rollercoaster but I have an incredible Team USA that has been supporting me,", "But it is what it is, it comes with the sport and I am just happy to be here, happy to swim and happy to represent my country. I'm ready to go always."[7] She went on to win silver medal in the S6 400m Freestyle.[7] Arlen had taken the S6 400m Freestyle world record in June at the American Paralympic trials.[8]

Jody Cundy disqualification[edit]

Jody Cundy attracted criticism for his reaction to a disqualification in the C4/C5 1 km time trial, which followed a dispute over a starting gate opening.[9] He was quoted as shouting at his coaches, "I fell out of the gate because the fucking gate didn't open. Everybody else gets the fucking re-ride … you don’t know the half of it. Do you know what it’s like? Four years of my life. One minute three, I could have destroyed everyone … in front of a six thousand home crowd. I'll never get this opportunity ever, ever, ever again."[10] He had to be physically restrained by the team mechanic.[9] He later returned to the arena to apologise to the crowd, saying, "I would like to apologise for my language, I think that even after all that noise you might have been able to hear my language. … Congratulations to all my fellow competitors."[9]

Channel 4 coverage[edit]

Channel 4, which has the UK broadcast rights for the Paralympics[11] attracted criticism for several elements of its opening ceremony coverage.[12] This criticism mainly focused on the use of adverts within the broadcast, [13] but also on what some viewers saw as the overly political nature of the commentary.[11]

A spokesman from Channel 4 was quoted as saying "We took the decision to run less advertising during the opening ceremony than would usually be broadcast in our peak time programming,", "But Channel 4 is a commercially funded public service broadcaster and advertising allows us to invest in original programming and events such as the Paralympics."[11]

Channel 4 also came under criticism for airing, on its show The Last Leg With Adam Hills, a tweet that asked whether if it is acceptable to hit disabled people.[14]

Oscar Pistorius remarks[edit]

Oscar Pistorius established a new world record of 21.30 seconds in his 200m heat on 1 September,[15] but was defeated in the final the next day by Alan Oliveira of Brazil. Pistorius took silver, and then created a controversy by complaining about the length of Oliveria's blades. He later apologized for the timing of his remarks, but not the content of his complaint.[16] The IPC confirmed the length of Oliveira’s blades were proportional to his body according to the rules, with all the finalists measured before the race. The IPC also confirmed that Pistorius had raised the issue of blade length with it six weeks prior to the race. The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee issued a statement welcoming Pistorius's apology for his outburst and declared their full support for him and promised to assist him in discussions with the IPC about the issue of lengthened prosthetics after the conclusion of the Games. The IPC expressed willingness to engage with Pistorius about the issue.[17] Australian runner Jack Swift,[18] USA runner Jerome Singleton,[19] and other athletes[20] also expressed support for Pistorius's position.

Powerlifters arrest[edit]

Two Jordanian powerlifters and a Jordanian trainer were arrested for sexual assault, following complaints in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where the squad was one of several national teams training before the Paralympics.[21][22] The Jordanian Paralympic Committee (JPC) announced that the men would return to Jordan, and then return later to court for their hearing. The committee also released a statement saying "The JPC denounces in the strongest terms possible all types of harassment and abuse, and wishes to reaffirm that this type of abhorrent behaviour is totally and utterly unacceptable and is to be condemned at all times."[21]


Three powerlifters were given a two-year ban for doping. Russians Nikolay Marfin and Vadim Rakitin tested positive for human growth hormone a week before the start of the games, and Georgian Shota Omarashvili was tested positive for steroids. Rakitin competed in the men's under-90kg class, but Marfin was prevented from taking part in the 100-plus kg class, and Omarashvili competed in the under-60kg event in which he failed to complete a lift.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Channel 4 and NBC under fire over Paralympics TV coverage | Paralympics News | The Week UK
  2. ^ a b Reynolds, Emma (31 August 2012). "NBC faces backlash after refusing to show Paralympics opening ceremony live (and they're only broadcasting five-and-a-half hours of the Games)". Daily Mail. London. 
  3. ^ Adams, Guy (31 August 2012). "NBC's lack of live coverage of Paralympic Games branded 'disappointing'". The Independent. London. 
  4. ^ Davies, Gareth A (24 August 2012). "Paralympics 2012: NBC to only screen five-and-a-half hours retrospective coverage of Games". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 2012-09-10. 
  5. ^ a b "Paralympics 2012: Ellie Simmonds's rival Victoria Arlen found to be ineligible for competition". The Daily Telegraph. London. 29 August 2012. 
  6. ^ "Paralympics 2012: Eleanor Simmonds rival Victoria Arlen still awaiting reclassification after eligibility issue". The Daily Telegraph. London. 30 August 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c "Victoria Arlen to face Ellie Simmonds". BBC News. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  8. ^ "Britain's Ellie Simmonds loses freestyle records to US teenager". BBC News. Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  9. ^ a b c Gibson, Owen (31 August 2012). "Paralympic cyclist Jody Cundy reacts with fury after track disqualification". The Guardian. London. 
  10. ^ "Cyclist Jody Cundy apologises for disqualification rant - Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph. London. 
  11. ^ a b c Hough, Andrew (30 August 2012). "Paralympics 2012: Channel 4 under fire over opening ceremony adverts". The Daily Telegraph. London. 
  12. ^ Channel 4 criticised for showing adverts during opening ceremony |
  13. ^ Halliday, Josh; O'Carroll, Lisa (30 August 2012). "Paralympic Games opening ceremony dominates newspaper front pages". The Guardian. London. 
  14. ^ Jessica Winch (3 September 2012). "Channel 4 criticised as show asks if it is OK to hit disabled people". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 18 September 2012. 
  15. ^ Andy Bull (1 September 2012), "Oscar Pistorius and Arnu Fourie seek room at the top at Paralympics", The Guardian, London 
  16. ^ "Oscar Pistorius moves to diffuse row over rival's blades after unexpected Paralympics loss", The Washington Post, 4 September 2012, archived from the original on 5 September 2012 
  17. ^ Kevin McCallum (4 September 2012), "IPC considers action against Oscar", Independent Online, archived from the original on 5 September 2012 
  18. ^ John Leicester (5 September 2012), "Column: History-maker Pistorius a hypocrite, too?", The Huffington Post, archived from the original on 6 September 2012 
  19. ^ US sprinter backs Pistorius blade rule review, Agence France-Presse, 5 September 2012, archived from the original on 6 September 2012, retrieved 5 September 2012 
  20. ^ Sam Cunningham (5 September 2012), "Oscar 'right to fight' as Paralympics blades row speeds up", Daily Mail, London, archived from the original on 6 September 2012 
  21. ^ a b "Jordanian Paralympians pull out of London Games after sexual assault charges in Northern Ireland". The Daily Telegraph. 23 August 2012. 
  22. ^ King of Jordan intervenes after London 2012 Paralympians appear in court on sex charges | London 2012 |