For two weeks in August 2016, it seemed like all of America was glued to their screens to watch some of the world’s best athletes compete at the Olympics.
You could live-stream every single event, and there were thousands of hours of TV coverage. Let’s be honest: It was awesome.
But we don’t have to let the post-Olympic blues set in just yet because the world’s best Paralympians will be competing in Rio starting Sept. 7.
However, unlike the Olympics, the Paralympics will receive just 66 hours of coverage across the various networks. Sadly, this is actually a huge increase from the mere 5.5 hours of television coverage the London 2012 Paralympics received.
A lack of media coverage isn’t the only issue.
The causes of these low ticket sales could be debated (think issues like Zika, contaminated water, political upheaval, and protests over Olympic spending), or it could very well be because of the lack of public awareness about the Paralympics.
No matter the reason, these world-class athletes deserve a crowd to cheer them on.
Enter Greg Nugent, former London 2012 marketing director, and a simple hashtag to get more spectators to the Paralympics. #FillTheSeats has been trending on Twitter and catching steam recently. One of the coolest parts of this movement? Nugent wasn’t looking to fill the seats with just anyone.
The money raised in the #FillTheSeats campaign will allow Brazilian children and people with an impairment who would otherwise be unable to go to the Games to attend a Paralympic event.
This movement began on August 23 and has received official backing from the IPC and Rio 2016 and an endorsement from Coldplay. Ticket sales are now on the rise as this campaign continues to grow, thanks in part to widespread support on social media from people around the world.
Former Olympic athletes also joined the conversation to voice their support for the initiative:
Give our athletes an audience & inspire the young people of Rio... #RioParalympics2016 #FillTheSeats #GetInvolved https://t.co/ySRLdl3JC1— Naomi Riches MBE (@Naomi Riches MBE) 1472589384
Great initiative to support the Paralympics, #filltheseats and hopefully inspire a generation of young Brazilians. https://t.co/KPuVp83Mqd— Vicky Holland (@Vicky Holland) 1472638893
#FillTheSeats has the potential not only to bring more spectators to Paralympic events, but also to increase support for para-athletes to achieve sporting excellence.
Justin Zook, a three-time gold-medal Paralympic swimmer, put it like this: "I’m hoping this [#FillTheSeats] campaign will find a way to have a long, lasting impact, rather than just an immediate PR and financial effect."
It’s amazing that Paralympians will get to compete on the world's stage in Rio. But just the opportunity to compete isn't enough. We need more media coverage of athletes with disabilities. We need more education about the opportunities for children with disabilities to get involved with sports. We need more than just 66 hours of coverage of the Paralympics.
Paralympians not only are incredible athletes, but they are amazing examples of determination, courage, and perseverance.
With the exposure from the #FillTheSeats movement, hopefully fans at Rio will be inspired by the athletes they witness and will be encouraged to support and learn more about the Paralympic mission.