Paralympic sport in the Netherlands is not sufficiently equipped to be the equivalent of sport for healthy people. That is the conclusion of the Dutch Sports Council in a huge advice to be published on Thursday. The main reason for this is, paradoxically enough, the fact that the network of people involved in Paralympic sports is highly fragmented in the pursuit of equality.
In the pursuit of equality, each sports association has incorporated Paralympic sports in its own way in recent decades. But this integration went too far. In this way, the group of experts is disintegrating, according to the Sports Council, an independent advisory body that includes people from business, sports and science, which issued the advice on behalf of the Department of Health, Welfare and Sports. The danger is that knowledge of Paralympic sports can quickly disappear in any organization.
The position is very weak
So Michael van Praag, president of the Sports Council, sees the situation in Paralympic sports as very weak. “Often a few people from sports federations take part in the Paralympics. Sometimes the head coach also has Paralympics ‘on the side’, or it’s about half the FTE per federation. It’s usually a very small part within the union.”
At the same time, there is often no mutual consultation between those small islands. Although the world of Paralympic games in the Netherlands is not very large, the various coaches, staff or administrators in different sports do not talk to each other regularly. There is no clear picture of who is participating in the Paralympics and how the sport could develop. Van Praag: “Everyone within the federations has identified the importance of Paralympic sport. With the best intentions of course, but there is no consistency. Nobody stands to make an unambiguous policy.”
According to van Praag, the minister must take the lead in the pursuit of an unambiguous policy. “We do not advise a university organization. That is up to the Minister. But it is very fragmented. Personally, as a simple citizen, I will not find a new form, a new dome, strange.”
Make money flow more transparent
The Sports Council also recommends that the flow of funds for disabled sports be made more transparent. This is still “diffuse,” according to Van Praag. Moreover, the best Paralympic sports should get more resources, but this should not be at the expense of the budget of the best sports as a whole.
Change takes time, which is why “visual equality” is needed as a first step, according to the Sports Council. This includes, among other things, the medal award formula at the Olympic Games for Olympic and Paralympic athletes. For example, it will also be possible to elect the best athlete or athlete of the year, including the Paralympic candidates. The term Paralympic can be visualized as NOC-NSF: NOPC-NSF.
According to the Sports Council, the ultimate goal should be to enable healthy athletes and athletes with disabilities to exercise during joint events. The Netherlands should be an international guide in this regard. The Sports Council is also recommending that more tournaments be included in Dutch media law, so that those events – such as the World Championships in Athletics or wheelchair basketball – are shown on TV. Continuous attention should also be given to encouraging children with disabilities. The Sports Council concludes that they need an extra boost to start exercising.
The Sports Council regularly issues advice on the state of sport in the Netherlands. Former Sports Minister Tamara van Ark asked for advice at the beginning of last year.
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