The Olympic and Paralympic Games are the most important events for high-class athletes all around the globe. They train for years to compete for their countries and win a medal. Olympics, Paralympics – both showcase the world’s elite athletes. There really isn’t much of a difference. However, historically, media coverage of the Paralympics has been lacking. This is about to change. NBCUniversal just announced unprecedented programming and promotion for the Tokyo Paralympic Games this year.
The name Paralympic is a combination of the Greek word ‘para,’ which means ‘alongside,’ and the word Olympic. It highlights how the Paralympics are a movement that lives side-by-side with the Olympic Games. The Paralympic’s history dates back to the 40s when Dr. Ludwig Guttmann converted rehabilitation sports at his spinal injury center in Great Britain to competitive sports. Soon after, on July 29, 1948, he organized the first competition for wheelchair athletes at the ‘Stoke Mandeville Games,’ which took place on the same day as the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympic Games. This event highlights the beginning of the Paralympics. Twelve years later, the first official Paralympic Games happened in Rome, Italy, where 400 athletes from 23 countries competed. This groundbreaking event from now on would take place every four years. Today, the Paralympics are the largest and most significant sports contest for athletes with disabilities around the globe.
Unfortunately, news coverage of the Paralympics has been lacking to this date, especially compared to the Olympics. Overall, athletes with disabilities aren’t often portrayed in media, a study in 2017 finds. And if they are, the narrative is often centered around their disability and not their athletic achievements. But this is bound to change this year with the Tokyo Paralympic Games.
NBCUniversal announced they will support the Paralympic Games in Tokyo with a record of 1200 hours of programming, additionally to six months of promotion. NBCUniversal’s coverage will feature more than 200 hours of TV coverage across NBC, NBCSN and the Olympic Channel, the home of Team USA. Additionally, the Paralympics will be broadcasted during primetime hours, with a debut on NBCUniversal’s streaming service Peacock, and much more.
The main sponsor and presenter of NBCUniversal’s Paralympic coverage is Toyota, a company known for its dedication to inclusivity and mobility for all. Most recently, the Toyota Mobility Foundation, in partnership with Nesta Challenges, awarded 1 million in prize money to an ultra-light wheelchair design. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that they would be the main sponsor of the Paralympic coverage on NBCUniversal. “It is a pleasure to once again work with NBCUniversal to share the Paralympic Games with American viewers, as there is no better global event for Toyota to reinforce our fervent belief that everyone is entitled to the freedom of movement in an inclusive society,” said Lisa Materazzo, group vice president, Toyota Marketing, Toyota Motor North America. “Paralympic athletes demonstrate that when a person is free to move, anything is possible.”
The Tokyo Paralympic Games take place from August 24 to September 5, 2021. Overall, 22 sports will be included, with badminton and taekwondo being introduced for the first time. And the Japanese host is prepared to greet all global visitors with the best ‘motenashi’ (hospitality). One of the most important goals of this year’s games is ‘Unity in Diversity,’ which means “accepting and respecting differences in race, color, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, level of ability or other status.”
NBCUniversal seems to follow that mission by not only showing the top stories and most crucial moments but also highlighting athlete profiles, their motivation and training, offering viewers a behind the scene look, with a special focus on the athletes of Team USA. “We are so thrilled to bring the Tokyo Paralympics to a broad audience with the support of our amazing partners,” said Alexa Pritting, coordinating producer for NBCU’s Paralympic coverage. “The athletes are stars both on and off the field and we look forward to telling their stories as they compete on the world’s biggest stage.”
NBCUniversal already started their promotion a few days ago by introducing seven Team USA athletes on NBC News’ TODAY, including 2016 Paralympic gold medalists David Brown (track and field) and Jerome Avery (track and field, guide runner). 13-time Paralympic gold medalist Jessica Long (swimming) participated in a virtual media tour across NBCUniversal programs and platforms a day later. They will continue their promotion of the Olympic Games via a ‘Get to Know Team USA’ campaign. “We are proud to be America’s long-term home of the Paralympics, and Tokyo will mark new heights in our coverage and storytelling,” said Gary Zenkel, President, NBC Olympics. “We are committed to growing our coverage across our platforms and bringing to the American audience the extraordinary achievements of Para athletes well into the future, a vision shared by our Paralympic partners–Toyota, Nike, Eli Lilly and United Healthcare.”
Some of the programming highlights include daily coverage from 9 PM to 9 AM, live coverage of the Opening Ceremony, streaming on the NBC Sports App of archery, badminton, boccia, canoe, cycling, equestrian, goalball, judo, marathon, rowing, shooting, sitting volleyball, soccer 5-a-side, swimming, table tennis, track and field, triathlon, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, and wheelchair tennis. And most importantly, all TV coverage will have accessibility features, including closed captioning and descriptive audio.
“NBCUniversal’s commitment to the coverage and promotion of the Tokyo Paralympic Games and U.S. Paralympic Team is truly something to celebrate,” said USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland. “This is a great reflection of our combined pledge to creating a path to parity for the Paralympic Movement while bringing the incredible feats of our Para athletes into more American homes than ever before.”
Save the date: On cable, NBCSN will televise the Tokyo Paralympics from 9 p.m. – 9 a.m. ET daily, with additional original hours and extensive replays on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. NBCSN will present live coverage of the Opening Ceremony on Tuesday, August 24, and live coverage of the Closing Ceremony on Sunday, September 5
Note: Comcast NBCUniversal was the first sponsor of abilityE — a disability talent resource for the entertainment industry. The slogan “Where your character makes a difference” promotes authentic representation in film, theater and TV.
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