I’m not a big Olympics fan and usually don’t watch opening ceremonies, but the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympics has become one of my favorite Olympic moments.
First, Stephen Hawking did a reading over a light show. Hawking’s words were about human beings discovering the universe and centered on the recent discovery of the Higgs-Boson particle. I know nothing about that stuff but I’m ready to accept whatever the man says on the subject. So, while lights sparkled and the stadium took on the form of a hadron collider, at center stage was the now-familiar appearance of Hawking, slumped and motionless in his wheelchair while his electronic voice described the wonders of the universe. The point was made: physical disability does not mean a crippled mind or a diseased spirit.
But then the band, Orbital, launched into an amazing performance of “Spasticus Autisticus” led by singer John Kelly. Ian Dury, crippled by polio, wrote “Spasticus Autisticus” for the UN Year of Disabled Persons in 1981. The UN was horrified and rejected the song and it was banned from British airplay.
Dury knew there might be problems, that his song might be found offensive by some but he wrote it anyway. He said that he was inspired by Spartacus, when the Roman soldiers were looking for Kirk Douglas and asked where Spartacus was, each of the men stepped forward and said, “I am Spartacus!” So, “I’m Spasticus! I’m Spasticus! I’m Spasticus Autisticus!” It’s a shout of anger at the cruelty visited by fortune on some people’s bodies and a shout of defiance of that cruelty, and it’s an exclamation of self: “Here I am and I’m going to be, like it or not.”
Hello to you out there in Normal Land
You may not comprehend my tale or understand
As I crawl past your window give me lucky looks
You can be my body but you’ll never read my books…
The enthusiasm of the crowd shouting out the lyrics was really something and I felt an Olympic glow for the first time in, well, ever.
The ceremony went on with an unveiling of a giant version of the statue by Marc Quinn depicting a very pregnant Alison Lapper. This is defiance, too, since disabled people are not supposed to breed. Here’s a picture of Alison with her child, Parys: