BBC apologises after Paralympian backlash to ‘main games’ error

Paralympic Games, presents a decoration of the symbol of Paralympic Games called the three 'agitos', after it was unveiled after a ceremony to mark the 100 days to go until the opening of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games which were postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building in Tokyo on May 16, 2021 - ISSEI KATO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Paralympic Games, presents a decoration of the symbol of Paralympic Games called the three ‘agitos’, after it was unveiled after a ceremony to mark the 100 days to go until the opening of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games which were postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building in Tokyo on May 16, 2021 – ISSEI KATO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The BBC has apologised after facing criticism from Paralympians for describing the Olympics in Tokyo as the “main” games.

Ali Jawad, a GB powerlifter who won silver in Rio and will compete in Japan, first identified the oversight in an online article, adding it was “complete disrespect” and “shocking”.

The corporation subsequently acknowledged the error, removing references to the Olympics being the “main” games in its Q&A about competitions this summer.

However, both Jawad, who suffers from Crohn’s disease, and the great wheelchair athlete David Weir, who won a total of six gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 Paralympic Games, expressed dismay at the language used.

“This is shocking from the BBC,” tweeted Jawad, 31. “Referring to the Olympics as the “main” games. Complete disrespect to all Paralympic athletes! When will we ever get the respect and recognition we deserve?”
Weir then added “good old BBC it will never change”.

While the BBC broadcasts the Olympics, the Paralympics are screened on Channel 4. Others defended the role BBC has played in promoting the Paralympics, however.

“From what I have seen it is a one-off,” one observer tweeted of the amended article by the BBC. “The BBC has done an enormous amount for Paralympic sport. I honestly believe they respect and recognise Paralympians.”

A BBC spokeswoman said later: “We’re sorry for this mistake, which has been corrected. The Paralympics are a very important part of the sporting calendar and the BBC is totally committed to covering Paralympic sports.”

Around 240 athletes from 19 sports are expected to make up Great Britain’s Paralympic team for the rescheduled event, which is due to take place from August 24 to September 5.

With less than two months ahead of the Games, ParalympicsGB’s Chef de Mission Penny Briscoe had spoken of her delight this week that Covid-19 vaccinations had been guaranteed for all British athletes competing. The Government has agreed to cover jabs for those travelling to the Games using vaccines made available through a deal struck between the International Olympic Committee and Pfizer.

Vaccinations are being offered to all British stakeholders going to the Japanese capital for either the Olympics or Paralympics but are not mandatory.

Coronavirus continues to dominate the build-up to both the Olympics and the Paralympics. Infection rates have been rising across Japan, while opposition to the events is growing amid a month-long state of emergency in Tokyo.

Briscoe, who was in the host city when the pandemic took hold last year, is mindful of the “fear” among the Japanese public and understands the concerns but is confident the Games can be delivered safely.

“I am following the lead and I trust very much my organising committee colleagues and colleagues at the IOC and at the IPC (International Paralympic Committee),” she told the Press Association news agency.

“They are with their sleeves rolled up, working through the very fine detail of delivering a Games in the midst of a global pandemic.

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