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Why do we hold separate Paralympic and Olympic Events?

news editor17 August 2012

 By Ruth Somerville, Leonard Cheshire Disability

“We’ve had the biggest marketing campaign in the station’s history for the Paralympics. And the viewer response? I’ve never seen anything like it! ” Dan Brooke, Director of Marketing and Communications, Channel 4

You can see it in the near sell-out ticket figures, on the advertising billboards, and in the headlines about ‘Blade Runner’ Oscar Pistorius competing at the Olympic Games. 2012 has seen the Paralympics – originally founded as a completely separate, or ‘parallel’ Games – race towards the mainstream.

At UCL’s  ‘Why do we hold separate Paralympic and Olympic Events?’(13 August), there wasn’t a spare seat in the room. I had gone because, like many people mystified by the complexities of Oscar Pistorius’ Olympic bid (and because I work for a disability charity), I really, really wanted to find out definitively what a ‘combined’ Games actually means.

With a brilliantly chosen panel of experts covering everything from logistics (Mark Dyer, London 2012 Olympic Delivery Authority) to broadcasting (Dan Brooke, Channel 4) to sports and disability theory (Dr P David Howe of  Loughborough University, and Professor Nora Groce of UCL), I had very high hopes for enlightenment…

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Embracing failure

Katherine Aitchison27 July 2012

Once a month, something beautiful happens in a dark room behind the Wilmington Arms pub in Islington. Now don’t let your imagination run away with you – I’m talking about Bright Club, the alternative comedy night from UCL.

On this night, researchers, academics and otherwise serious folk gather in the tiny room and, for two hours, tell silly stories and generally make fun of their chosen careers.

The event is understandably popular; tickets had sold out and I was glad that I got there early enough to grab a seat on a rickety wooden bench. By the time the metaphorical curtain went up, there were people leaning on all the walls and my bench was surrounded by those who had been further back in the queue and were forced to stand through the acts.

Each month’s gathering has a theme and the chosen topic for July was “Failure” in order to tie in with UCL’s series of Olympic-themed events, Exercise your brain. The idea being to take the edge off all the talk of winning and medals inspired by the Games by celebrating the fact that not everything always goes according to plan.

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What can the Olympic Games do for you?

Katherine Aitchison16 July 2012

This summer, the Olympic Games are coming to London (in case you hadn’t heard) and with them a huge focus on sport and exercise throughout the country. But how does this investment in sport affect you average non-sporty person?

That was the question posed to a panel of experts at the UCL Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health Grand Round on 10July entitled Optimising Performance: success for our athletes, health for our nation.

Held as part of UCL’s “Exercise your Brain” programme to tie in with the Olympic Games, the panel included Sir Clive Woodward (Director of Elite Performance, British Olympic Association), Dr Mike Loosemore (Team doctor, Great Britain Olympic boxing) and UCL’s Professor Hugh Montgomery and Professor Mike Grocott.

All of the panellists were there to convince us that investing in sport research can have far-reaching benefits throughout the health industry.

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Brain Anatomy and the Ancient Olympics

news editor4 July 2012

Annette Mitchell,  PhD student (UCL Greek & Latin)

Linking neuroscience and the ancient Olympics appears curious at first sight, but after hearing Professor Semir Zeki (UCL Neuroesthetics) express how neuroscience can illuminate ideological elements of the ancient Olympics these differing subjects proved to be a stimulating pairing.

The setting was a discussion on 28 June between Professor Zeki and Professor Chris Carey (UCL Greek and Latin) entitled The pursuit of Olympic ideals – physical, neural and aesthetic. Professor Zeki asked Professor Carey about aspects related to the ancient Olympics and concluded by providing neuro-anatomical explanations for them.

The Original Olympics
Professor Carey began by introducing the ancient Olympics, which is commonly believed to have first occurred in 776 BC. The Games were likely instituted so that the various ancient Greek city-states, which were often at war, could peacefully compete. The Olympic Games were, essentially, sublimated aggressive impulses.

Olympic competitors were, indeed, ruthless. In the pancrateon – a wrestling competition – any move, however harmful, was tolerated, provided it did not kill an opponent, which was “frowned upon”.

Athletics undergirded by aggression became part of the fabric of Greek culture. Indeed, everywhere the Greeks subsequently founded cites there were always wrestling arenas and gymnasiums (sporting grounds).

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