Media attention for Paralympics improving slowly but surely

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By Marijn Thijs

Despite the success of the Dutch athletes at the Paralympic Games in Rio, the amount of nationwide media attention for the team was limited compared to the August Summer Olympics.

The Paralympics were held from 7th until the 18th of September in Rio de Janeiro, where 126 Dutch athletes competed in a total of 13 events. Bringing home a total of 62 medals (17 gold, 19 silver and 26 bronze), the performance of the Dutch team exceeded all expectations.

In his blog entry on the website of the NOC*NSF back in 2012, Chef de Mission André Cats called the London Paralympics ‘an unforgettable tournament’ for the Netherlands. A total of 39 medals was won by the delegation. The total medal harvest in Rio was 23 medals higher.

Still, the amount of media attention for the Paralympics was not extensive, especially when compared to the Olympic Games. The official Dutch broadcaster NOS aired two daily 30-minute recap shows and four live streams through their website. The Olympics were more readily accessible, as the broadcasts amounted to around 12 hours of live sports each day on public channels, 3 hours of sports news magazines, an evening show from Rio itself and twelve online live streams.

“The interest of the public is generally limited, simply because the event itself is significantly smaller”, says NOC*NSF press secretary Geert Slot. Even though he recognizes there are more medals to win, there are less competing athletes in fewer disciplines. “I think we can always have more media attention, but I am satisfied with this year’s Paralympics.”

The NOC*NSF also contributed to the coverage by promoting the Paralympics through an active app (TeamNL), producing videos and supplying the Dutch national news agency ANP with material. “We try to close the gap in attention levels between the Olympics and the Paralympics, but that is a step-by-step process,” Slot says.

Peter van der Meeren, a regional journalist for the Leeuwarder Courant, says athletes highly appreciate whatever media attention they receive. He was sent out to Rio to report on Frisian athletes for media group NDC. “Gold medal winner Alyda Norbruis especially came to tell me how nice the attention was,” he said. The ‘Leeuwarder Courant’ covered two full pages each day, supplying stories on the achievements of the 9 Frisian athletes and background stories. “I worked 18 hour days at times,” says van der Meeren, “but it was definitely worth it.”

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