Just a thought. But the warm glow of success and the hot blast of at least one very interesting personality from Rio might be the beginning of the end for the Paralympics as we know it.

This column was supposed to be about sports funding adjustments, and in a way it still is. But doing the mathematical calculations are beyond me. And I'm happy to keep it that way.

I started the 2016 Paralympics as a naysayer and ended up a fan. One reason it grabbed me was the way it grabbed a lot of other people.

I kept asking friends and acquaintances if they were following the Paralympics, expecting a few negative replies. But absolutely everyone seemed to be into it. Maybe one reason is that these Games represented a return to more innocent times. But will those times remain?


The Paralympics are the feel good story of the year, alongside teenage Olympic pole vaulting sensation Eliza McCartney. Paralympics sprinter Liam Malone will win every Star Newcomer Award if McCartney doesn't get there first. Both have distinctive hair and more importantly, quirky and attractive personalities underneath. Some people have x-factor and some people don't. McCartney didn't only jump over the bar. She jumped out from the screen.

So what comes next?

Funding is one of the issues, and there's no doubt a lot of New Zealanders would support more of the available sports money being spent on the Paralympic sports.

What I'd really like to see though is more money spent on community facilities, particularly in hard up suburbs and ignored provinces.

Rugby union gets an almighty leg up in New Zealand, especially with schools acting as a feeder system for the national game. A lot of other sports should get similar consideration, if we really are interested in a diverse and equal society.

Beyond that, rewarding "successful" Olympic sports and punishing so-called unsuccessful ones on a four year cycle is a strange way of operating. If medals really are the goal, consistent long term strategies using history as a guide is surely the way to go. In other words, rowing and cycling are in forever. But we suck at swimming, so out it goes if the millions per medal calculation is the only one worth making.

Moving on...and back to the Paralympics. Money and significantly raised expectations don't always ruin a sport. The English Premier League is an example - disgustingly extreme spending has actually produced a riveting competition.

But the folding stuff and the obsession with winning can be detrimental. Look at how SANZAAR is destroying aspects of rugby, and at the serious side effects of a national system designed to make the All Blacks invincible.


So what happens when we start pumping a lot more money into Paralympic sports, and they return from the Games one day with a "bad" medal haul? Do we suddenly take a lot of the money away, tell them they're no good, that they let the country down. We have become overly twisted by the obsession with "winning".

So here's a simplistic little idea. We should invest in Paralympic sports - and other sports - as an ideal, not only in search of medals. We should find out what is needed in the community, and provide it. We should check harder with people who run things like Riding for the Disabled, to see if they are okay. As per a previous column, take the money given to swimming and make sure our coastal lifeguards are well provided for.

We are neck deep in the awful age of rationalisation, as the intellectuals of a century ago predicted it. We turn everything into a number, and are obsessed with what are often shonky cost-benefit claims.

In sport, the number is a medal count. When it came to the Olympics, we used to celebrate silver. Now we ask why it wasn't gold.

As a society, we have lost faith in collective philosophies, and medals will become the measure of how we treat sporting aspirants with disabilities. Money will flood towards a few in the top levels, with corporations jumping on board to promote products while pretending to care about healthy societies.

Paralympians have as much right as anyone else to be buffeted by the ups and downs of top level sport, and treated as genuine sports stars. And Rio has been a stunning success, for the competitors and supporters. But still, there are times when it pays to be careful about what you wish for.