Media coverage of sport for athletes with intellectual disabilities: The 2010 Special Olympics national Games examined
The XVII 2002 Commonwealth Games held in Manchester, England, was the first major international multi-sport event to include elite athletes with disabilities (EADs) in its main sports programme and medal table. In this exploratory article we seek to examine some of the complex issues surrounding the inclusion of EADs in the Manchester Games by analysing the coverage afforded those athletes by six national British newspapers. The results suggest that: (1) there was a tendency by the British media to discuss the performances of EADs in terms more-or-less consistent with a medicalized understanding of disability; (2) the inclusion of EADs in the Games signaled the ‘end of a sporting apartheid’ between ‘able-bodied’ athletes and EADs; and (3) that the participation of EADs in the Games was said to reflect the alleged growing ‘inclusion’ of people with disabilities in the wider society more broadly. The paper concludes by discussing some of the unintended consequences of including EADs in the Games, including those brought about by the classification system used to group athletes into events according to their particular impairment. Those which were associated with the supposed need for greater media coverage of EADs in ‘able-bodied’ sports competitions such as the Commonwealth Games.