There’s been a lot of love for the Royal Mail lately due to a canny marketing move. They’ve pledged to paint a post box gold in the home town of every athlete who wins an Olympic or Paralympic gold medal for Great Britain. They’ve also made special stamps for every Olympian – but not for the Paralympians who have to share six stamps.
This is an appalling move by the Royal Mail. The proffered excuse is that as we won so many Paralympic medals at the last games it would be “logistically and practically impossible for Royal Mail to produce an individual stamp” for every athlete. That quote is from the Paralympics GB website, by the way. And naturally Paralympics GB declare themselves happy with the Royal Mail’s decision. Because let’s face it, the stamps and the postboxes are a nice touch from a business which doesn’t have to do anything to honour either Olympians or Paralympians. Yes, the Royal Mail will sell large numbers of the stamps but with near-instant production I’d suspect their profits won’t be huge though I’m happy to be corrected on this if anyone has info. So it could be seen as a bit churlish and ungrateful for Paralympics GB to say they are unhappy with the team having to share stamps. I can see why they would not complain about it.
But I’m complaining. Because it’s awful. It smacks of a token pat on the head for a group of athletes whose disability means they are perceived to be not as worthy as able-bodied Olympians. This is so far from reality that the decision is transmuted into an insult. Let’s not forget, these people are the Superhumans. Take a look at this video. Go on, take a minute to watch it. Then tell me that those people are not as good as Olympians. In terms of effort, hard work and powering through adversity they’ve been there and got the t shirt long before they ever took up sport.
Don’t think I’m patronisingly cheering for Paralympians because I want equality. I do, of course, but the reality is that Paralympians are every bit as deserving of stamps as Olympians. Consider some of their achievements. Hannah Cockcroft has the world record for 100m wheelchair racing with a time of 17.6 seconds. Ellie Simmonds seems to have spent the last few years snagging every swimming world record she can find. At the last Paralympics Jody Cundy blitzed through the world record for the 1km Time Trial (the ‘Kilo’) to win gold in 1m 5.466s. Compare him to the able-bodied French cyclist Arnaud Tournant who did the same distance in 58.875 seconds or Olympian Chris Hoy at 58.880 seconds. The difference between Cundy and Hoy is blink-and-you’ll-miss it small. So why not treat them equally?
Let’s take it further, what if Cundy or another Team GB athlete got so good they decided to compete on equal terms with able-bodied athletes? How ludicrous would the situation be if they gained a personal stamp in the Olympics but had to share for the Paralympics? And this is not a far-fetched idea. South African Oscar Pistorius is both an Olympian and a Paralympian. His personal best for the 400m is 45.07 seconds. The world record for an able-bodied athlete (Michael Johnson) is 43.18 seconds. If Paralympian athletes are training as hard as Olympic athletes, putting in equal amounts of hard work and achieving results which snap at the heels of Olympic athletes then surely they deserve equal recognition from all of us?
I truly am disappointed that the Royal Mail have chosen to disregard the individual successes of Paralympians while they laud Olympians. They are in no way less worthy than Olympians. Citing the large number of gold medals our Paralympians are expected to gain seems such a dreadful reason. It might almost have worked if Team GB had managed only a few Olympic golds – but as the total is currently at 24 Olympic golds for Britain with each medallist getting a stamp and postbox it becomes increasingly apparent that “numbers” is a poor excuse. And in the interests of fairness I will acknowledge that the Royal Mail are donating £200,000 to a prize fund for the Paralympian gold medallists and that’s a lovely thing. But a stamp is about more than money. It’s recognition on a grand scale that these are amazing athletes. Should I manage to turn so much as a cartwheel I fully expect a parade in my honour and a gold-plated train. So Royal Mail, please honour our Paralympic athletes. You of all people should recognise that a stamp is much more than a tiny square of gummed paper.