Portraying ‘Paralympism’? An analysis of the evolution of Paralympic athlete media representations since the 1980s


  • Rory Alexander Flindall German Sport University Cologne


Paralympism, Paralympic media representations, Paralympic Movement, Paralympians, Paralympic history


Positioned within the assertion that the mass media serves as the tool for meeting the Paralympic Movement’s Vision, this study set out to analyse how Paralympic media portrayals have been representative of Paralympism since the 1980s. To achieve this, a document analysis of primary and secondary sources attained from the archives of the IPC and Dutch National Archives alongside content analyses of specific Paralympic Games was conducted. The resultant key findings included that 1) many of the commonly referenced portrayals of Paralympians throughout history are still present within Paralympic reporting today, 2) it could be determined that progress has occurred in view of meeting the Paralympic Movement’s altruistic aims since the 1980s, 3) the amount and quality of coverage of Paralympians has undergone a significant shift within the timeframe under investigation, and 4) the actions of organisers of sport for athletes with an impairment, but above all the athletes themselves, created the situation enabling the Movement’s rise to prominence and enhanced visibility. It is posited that one way the IPC may better capitalise on its present situation could be that of adopting an official definition for Paralympism, celebrating the individualities of para-sport and its specific cultural history.






Conference papers