"A More Equitable Society": The Politics of Global Fairness in Paralympic Sport

PLoS One. 2016 Dec 12;11(12):e0167481. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0167481. eCollection 2016.


The Paralympic Movement explicitly sets out to create a more equitable society and promote participation for all and fairness in disability sport. This is primarily achieved through the use of a range of interventions with less attention given to how economic factors may hinder access and achievement in Paralympic sport. We investigated how country-level economic variables influence the level of participation and achievement in the 2015 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics Championships held in Doha. We used multiple regression analysis to show how levels of participation and achievement in the Championships were significantly determined by economic factors independent of population size. Our data show that in spite of the ideals of inclusion and fairness within the Paralympic Movement and the considerable effort expended on the use of technologies to achieve this, economic factors continue to exert a statistically significant influence on both the level of participation and achievement of Paralympic athletes. LMICs participate at lower levels and achieve fewer medals when compared to HICs. These differences are particularly marked in events that have a high cost of participation. Our findings raise questions regarding the use of current technologies and the level to which they are able to truly disrupt the politics of global inequality in sport.

MeSH terms

  • Athletes
  • Athletic Performance
  • Disabled Persons*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Politics*
  • Societies*
  • Sports*

Grants and funding

This work is based on research supported in part by the National Research Foundation of South Africa (Grant specific unique reference number (UID) 85423) (LS). JB is supported by the Medical Research Council of South Africa (MRC career award). CB is supported by the Kelley Adaptive Sports Research Institute. The Grantholders (LS, CB and JB) acknowledge that opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in any publication generated by the NRF, the Kelley Adaptive Sports Research Institute and MRC supported research are that of the authors, and that the NRF and/or the Kelley Adaptive Sports Research Institute and/or MRC accept no liability whatsoever in this regard. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.