Anna Poteshkina (Russia) on How Paralympic Athletes Can Connect with the World Through Social Media

June 21, 2012

The Olympic Games began thousands of years ago, but their values continue to influence people around the world today. In the twenty-first century, there are more ways of communicating and sharing information than there has ever been before. As the world becomes closer, we should find new ways of spreading and demonstrating the core Olympic values: respect, excellence, friendship, inspiration, determination, equality, and courage. The Internet and social networks can help to spread these ideals by promoting information about international sporting events and athletes, in particular the Paralympics.
Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Vkonakte, and many others could create new theme groups and update information about athletes’ training and achievements. Furthermore, sporting events could make their own social networks. Today, such websites already exist: the Olympic Athletes’ Hub was started before the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. Sites like this could be used as a basis to develop new sites that could connect all kinds of athletes and people from all over the world.

Compared to the Olympic Games, public awareness of Paralympics is rather low in many places, and international social networks spreading information about the Paralympics and disabled athletes would help to advance the Olympic values in people’s lives. Therefore, these sites can also bridge perceived gaps between the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Creating long-lasting cross-cultural projects will offer Paralympic athletes and disabled student athletes from different countries a chance to connect with each other and to communicate with non-disabled athletes and fans. In these sites, people will be able to compare experiences, share success stories, and watch photos and videos about disabled athletes.

By showing the trials and achievements of disabled athletes, the social networks will promote the Olympic values. Thanks to such websites in the years to come, fans could be able to get online training lessons from Paralympic champions such as Daniel Dias, Oscar Pistorius, and others. Their great examples will help people from everywhere to be inspired, determined, and to have the courage to reach their goals and to get over difficulties. Excellence is one more Paralympics value that would be shown in websites. The saying “Be better than you were yesterday,” which represents a desire for excellence, applies to all the people—disabled or non-disabled, athlete or musician. Moreover, the social networking aspects of the sites—communication and personal stories—will further respect, friendship, and equality.

These sites could be used at home, in classrooms, and by sports teams as tools for teaching these ideals. Classrooms could have “pen-pal” partners from around the world, and disabled and non-disabled students would have a chance to meet each other and form long-lasting friendships. This could lead to the further integration of cultures and to cross-cultural communication between individuals based on the Olympic values, which are relevant to everyone around the world, no matter his or her circumstances.
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