Oakland-based filmmaker Regan Brashear is launching her film FIXED: The Science / Fiction of Human Enhancement and is running a Kickstarter campaign to help with funding for the film’s clean-up. You can start with donations of $1 and up–details about the campaign and film here. The campaign runs until 9.03am EDT, August 31, so donate NOW. A brief excerpt from the site:
What’s the film about? What does “disabled” mean when a man with no legs can run faster than many Olympic sprinters? With prenatal screening able to predict hundreds of probable conditions, who should determine what kind of people get to be born? If you could augment your body’s abilities in any way imaginable, what would you do and why? From pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to neural implants and bionic limbs, researchers around the world are hard at work developing a myriad of technologies to fix or enhance the human body, but what does it mean to design “better humans” and do we want to? FIXED follows three remarkable people: Continue reading →
As Canada prepares to host the world’s best, Vancouver 2010, The Globe and Mail, and the University of British Columbia in collaboration with universities across Canada, are partnering on a unique project inviting the public to flex their intellect via podcasts by some of the country’s best minds on topics related to the 2010 Winter Games.
My podcast is live
Who will be the future Olympic and Paralympic athlete? The impact of advances in science and technology and bodily assistive devices on Sport.
American athlete Aimee Mullins has been a guest editor over at Gizmodo recently, and her “Racing on Carbon Fibre Legs” is worth a read on Cheetah legs, Pistorius, an ableism. Amongst the things of interest are:
As of yet, the best prosthetic available is not as efficient and not as capable as what Mother Nature gives us — or, what she was supposed to give me and South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius. The revolutionary design of the woven carbon-fibre Cheetah Leg, nicknamed for its design inspiration, has been in existence for nearly 15 years — and after my initial triumphs with them in the mid 1990s, it has been the leg of choice for nearly all elite amputee sprinters. But in one instant, after Pistorius entered a summer 2007 track meet in Rome and placed second in a field of runners possessing flesh and bone legs, he and I were deemed too abled.
Sept. 9 (Bloomberg) — Double-amputee Oscar Pistorius won today’s 100 meters at the Paralympic Games in Beijing, though he missed his objective of beating his own world record time. South Africa’s Pistorius, nicknamed “Blade Runner” because of his carbon-fiber prosthetic legs, finished in 11.17 seconds at the Bird’s Nest stadium, about a quarter of a second slower than his world mark of 10.91 set last year. Continue reading →
Every nation, because of how sports programs and health-care systems are structured, has a different method of financing its national-team athletes for the Olympics and the Paralympics. A sampling: Continue reading →
AURORA, Ill. — When he rolls to the starting line for the 1,500-meter wheelchair race at the Paralympics, the Olympics for disabled athletes that begin Saturday in Beijing, Tony Iniguez will wear his Team USA uniform with pride. He will compete for the United States’s Olympic program. He is also suing it for discrimination.
Paralympic athlete Tony Iniguez worked out at the East Aurora High School track in July.
photo by Peter Wynn Thompson for The New York Times
Iniguez is one of many Paralympians who criticize the United States Olympic Committee for providing less direct financial assistance and other benefits at lower levels to Paralympic athletes than to Olympians in comparable sports. The committee awards smaller quarterly training stipends and medal bonuses to Paralympic athletes. Benefits like free health insurance, which help athletes devote more hours to training, are available to a smaller percentage of Paralympians. Continue reading →
Rebecca Solnit offers another look at the bodies of the Olympics, what they mean, and what they hide.
“On August 8, the Beijing Olympic Games will begin, and television will bring us weeks of the human body at the height of health, beauty, discipline, power, and grace. It will be a thousand-hour advertisement, in some sense, for the participating nations as represented by athletes with amazing abilities. In reality, the athletes will be something of a mask for what each nation really stands for, and this year the Olympics as a whole will be as much a coverup as, say, the Mexico City Olympics of 1968, which came hot on the heels of the Tlaltelolco Plaza massacre of students, or the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which gave the Nazis legitimacy as they turned Germany into an efficient totalitarian death factory. Ironically, the 2008 summer Olympics begin on the twentieth anniversary of the 8888 (for 8/8/1988 ) Burma uprising against the brutal military dictatorship that has controlled that country, with crucial backing from China, for more than four decades now. The Chinese government is also busy terrorizing Tibetans protesting for religious freedom and liberation of their colonized country; it is also the main protector of the Sudanese government carrying out a holocaust in Darfur. Continue reading →
[picture of Natalie Du Toit preparing to dive into the pool from what appears to be a dustjacket for a book; small, typed writing on bottom half of page]
Natalie Du Toit, an amputee swimmer who qualified for the able bodied 10 km swim in Beijing, has just placed 16th in that event, more than one minute behind winner Larisa Ilchenko of Russia. She had kept up with the lead pack for most of the race but could not keep up when the pace quickened in the latter part of the race. She was disappointed with her result hoping for a top five placing. She plans to be back in the London 2012 Olympics in that event. She will be staying in Beijing for the next month to compete in the Paralympics.
6 August 2008
Special Olympics-Coca Cola sponsor logo
Special Olympics athletes are featured in a new television commercial created by The Coca-Cola Company, a Special Olympics Global Partner. The theme of the commercial, scheduled to air during the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, 8-24 August, is supporting Olympic dreams. Special Olympics athletes are shown receiving medals along with Olympic athletes and Special Olympics supporters, including Nadia Comaneci, Carl Lewis and Rafer Johnson.
The Special Olympics athletes who appear in the commercial are Amanda Bamman, Special Olympics Colorado; Alex Darling, Special Olympics Washington; Paul Nimmich, Special Olympics South Carolina; and Christina Schell, Special Olympics Washington. Continue reading →
Yang Peiyi, who recorded the song that Lin Miaoke lip-synced at the Beijing opening ceremonies.
Today’s big Olympic story (see CBC coverage here and National Post coverage here) was not about athletic accomplishments, but rather another lip-syncing controversy. This time, it was something far more disturbing than learning that Luciano Pavarotti lip-synced his performance at the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics. Rather, today we learned that not only did nine-year-old Lin Miaoke lip-synch her performance of “Ode to the Motherland” at the Beijing opening ceremony, but the girl who actually sang the song, seven-year-old Yang Peiyi, was considered not beautiful enough to represent China because of her crooked teeth. According to Chen Qigang, the ceremony’s chief music director, “The reason was for the national interest. The child on camera should be flawless in image, internal feelings and expression.”
Cullen Jones, only the second African American to ever swim on the US Olympic swim team, won a gold medal in the 4×100 free relay that broke the world record and also upset the French team in an unbelievable comeback finish.
Cullen, who nearly drowned as a young boy, is also a spokesperson for USA Swimming’s Make a Splash program which is promoting swimming among minorities. It has been shown that among ethnically diverse groups, they are nearly three times more likely to drown than the national average.
You can see a range of other sports-related posts at What Sorts right here
Natalie du Toit, the amputee South African swimmer whom we’ve blogged about before here, is carrying the flag for South Africa at the Olympics. Peter Kostadinov at sofiaecho.com writes:
Du Toit will compete in the women’s 10-kilometre marathon swim. She booked her place by finishing fourth in the 10-kilometre race at the World Open Water Swimming Championships in Seville in May 2008. Now she has the chance to become the first athlete with an amputated leg to win an Olympic medal in 56 years. Continue reading →
An opinion piece in the New York Times by Jennifer Finney Boylan, “The XY Games”, explores the practice of gender testing in the Olympics to determine that female athletes are in fact female. The author discusses the history of this testing, its faults, and the ambiguity of sex and gender. Amongst some of the things that one might want to discuss is the following:
“So what makes someone female then? If it’s not chromosomes, or a uterus, or the ability to get pregnant, or femininity, or being attracted to men, then what is it, and how can you possibly test for it? Continue reading →
Its about a swimmer with cerebral palsy and developmental differences. An excerpt
“Mr. Kendall Bailey, an athlete who is a citizen of the USA and eligible to represent the USA in international competition, is inappropriately classified to compete in International Paralympic Committee (IPC) swimming competition. Mr. Bailey is intellectually disabled. The intellectual disability classification for swimming (S14) is not presently recognized by the IPC; nor is an intellectually disabled swimmer eligible to compete under the IPC Swimming Functional Classification System.”
A recent national, first-of-its kind survey found that approximately six out of ten African-American children are unable to swim, nearly twice as many as their Caucasian counterparts while fifty-six percent of Hispanic and Latino children are unable to swim. The study by USA Swimming, the National Governing Body for the sport of swimming, found that the significant gap in swimming between races was due mainly to parental influence and socioeconomic factors.
Recently, Bruce Wigo, CEO of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, spoke on Swimnetwork.com’s ‘Chlorination’, episode seventeen stating that less than 1% of all competitive swimmers are African American. “For the first fifty years of the last century, blacks were entirely excluded from our pools.” Swimming has been engrained in generations of white families and has not diversified into other ethnic groups. Seventy-seven percent of African-American women do not know how to swim and would be less likely to bring their children to a swimming pool.
The USA Swimming Foundation is actively trying to break this cycle and the disproportionately high drowning rate amongst ethnically diverse populations with their Make a Splash initiative. One of their spokespersons is Cullen Jones, the first African-American swimming world record holder and Olympic hopeful in the 50 free. Here is more on his story.
Another good article about the few African-American elite swimmers breaking barriers in their sport can be read on ESPN.
“Sport and Ability”
April 22, 2008
Recognizing the breadth of human rights and fundamental freedoms, a core part of which is the
right of persons with disabilities to sport and recreation, delegates from around the world met at
the 2008 Shafallah Center Forum to open a dialogue on sport and ability;
Recalling that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims that all human beings are
born free and equal in dignity and rights, and that everyone is entitled to all the rights and
freedoms set forth in the Declaration without distinction of any kind;
Reaffirming the principles of equality for persons with disabilities in sport and recreation
embodied in the World Program of Action Concerning Disabled Persons and the UN Standard
Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities;
Observing the universality, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelatedness of all human
Recognizing the role of sport and recreation in society in fostering social inclusion;
Acknowledging the valued existing and potential athletic contributions made by persons with
disabilities to the overall well-being and diversity of their communities and that the promotion of
the full enjoyment by persons with disabilities in sport will result in their enhanced sense of
belonging and in significant advances in the human, social and economic development of
Realizing the potential of sport to empower persons with disabilities to realize their full
participation in the economic and political life of their community;
Considering the discrimination experienced by persons with disabilities in enjoying their human
rights and fundamental freedoms and barriers that exist in accessing sport and recreation;
Recognizing the double discrimination experienced by women and girls with disabilities in
accessing their right to participate in sport and recreation;
Reaffirming the need to ensure that children with disabilities have equal access with other
children to participate in play, recreation, leisure and sporting activities, including in the school
system, community spaces, playgrounds and recreation areas;
Observing the need to combat stereotypes, prejudices and harmful practices that hinder the
participation of persons with disabilities in sport and recreation, and the need to promote
awareness of the capabilities and contributions of persons with disabilities as participants,
competitors and spectators in sport and recreation;
Understanding the importance of access to a choice of disability-specific or mainstream options
for persons with disabilities to explore their sport and recreation potential;
Encouraging the participation of persons with disabilities in sport and recreation activities at all
Observing the need to facilitate and support capacity-building, including through the exchange
and sharing of information, experiences, training programs and best practices;
Encouraging the facilitation of cooperation in research and access to scientific and technical
knowledge of developing adaptive sport and recreation at all levels;
Recognizing the important role of international cooperation in supporting national and local
efforts to ensure that sport and recreation is inclusive of, and accessible to, persons with
disabilities, including inclusive development programs;
Desiring to implement the principles embodied in the International Convention on the Rights of
Persons with Disabilities and to secure the earliest adoption of practical measures to enable
persons with disabilities to participate on an equal basis with others in sport and recreation;
Observing that Shafallah delegates demonstrated leadership in advancing sport as inclusion
through exploring new and creative avenues for persons with disabilities to enjoy and exercise
their right to sport.
The Shafallah Center Forum encourages the strengthening of the dialogue among and between
individuals and organizations involved in disability, sport, and human rights to advance the
human rights of persons with disabilities in sport and recreation. The Forum further recognizes
the importance of education and awareness-raising to promote inclusive practices across cultures,
communities and society.
Being an L1 paraplegic who also swims to keep fit and who grew up as a competitive swimmer, I was amazed when I read about this South African amputee swimmer who made it to the Beijing Olympics in the able bodied 10km open water swim. Natalie Du Toit was amputated through her left knee after being hit by a car back in 2001. She does not use a prosthetic leg when she swims. She recently came fourth in the Open Water World Championships where she qualified for Beijing. I am looking forward to seeing how she performs at the Olympics later this summer.
This article talks more about her story. I decided to blog on this after reading about Oscar Pistorius on the post by Spirit of the Time. Update ( 08.08.08 ) by Spirit of the Time: see also this more recent What Sorts post on Natalie Du Toit, written just before and after the opening ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics.
Oscar Pistorius will be racing over this weekend in The Netherlands. At least some of the races, especially the 400 metres, will give him an opportunity to set a time that improves his chances of qualifying for the Beijing Olympics; his personal best time is 1 second slower than the qualifying time, and he’s apparently not in top-form right now. But still … he’s probably got as good a chance as the Penguins have of trumping the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup. The CBC has a nice short story on this right here.
Go, Oscar, go!
Update: news of his 200 metre run from Sports Illustrated, and now of his 100 and 400 metre runs here. Oscar needs to shave just more than 2 seconds off his 400 metre time in order to qualify for the South African team by qualification time, unless no other South African has a qualifying time.