This Olympic season was very much one of firsts — ranging from the to-be-confirmed retirement of the most decorated Olympian in history (Phelps may yet attempt another resurgence), to the first U.S. Olympian to compete in a hijab; from the first South American host city, to the first ever refugee team to compete in the storied Games. As classes at Princeton resumed, many of us still coasted on the excitement of the summer’s events, bolstered as we are by the presence of Olympians in our midst. Yet the Games aren’t over — not completely. In fact, they’re still ongoing, and the Paralympic Games conclude in just a few days.
In recent years, coverage of this latter class of games has increased drastically — US networks dedicated 60.5 hours to the London Paralympics four years ago, but are airing 66 hours for the Rio Paralympics this year. Though it represents a promising trend in policy, the figure still pales in relation to that of the actual Olympic games. After all, the 66 hours for the Paralympics over the 12 days of the Games is a sharp contrast to NBC’s policies regarding the August Olympics, during which they aired over 260 hours of coverage over the 17 days of the Olympics a month ago.
Some may argue that the Olympics are considered more interesting than the Paralympics, and that media sources must cater to consumer interests out of the necessity for commercial viability. And yet the Paralympians have been proving their mettle (and value) several times over during the past several days. Most notably, just this Monday, the top four Paralympian runners, all of whom were visually impaired, ran the 1,500m faster than the first-place able-bodied athlete in August. Yet a cursory investigation of Google trends showed that interest in the search term “Paralympics,” at least among the Google-using community, barely registered at all relative to search queries that included “Olympics.” On a 100-point scale, the 2016 Olympics peaked with a score of 88; the Paralympics have not broken a score of 5.
The underlying trends of progressive change, global unity, cooperation, and cross-cultural understanding that define the Olympics are clearly present in force; but they are by no means complete. Hopefully, the next Olympics and Paralympics will be another season of firsts, even more so than now.
Jason Choe is an economics major from Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.