Was Jimmy Carr right about the Paralympics?
Published: 4th Jul 2012 12:26:18
Three years ago comedian Jimmy Carr got in trouble for joking that injuries sustained by service personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan would create a great GB Paralympics team. But was he right?
It was a joke Carr told an audience of just 2,500 at the Manchester Apollo in 2009, but it created a backlash across the UK.
Col Richard Kemp, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, politicians, and some families of wounded soldiers condemned it as being in bad taste. Others stood up for the comedian, saying he meant no malice.
The furore prompted Carr - who had visited a military hospital in Birmingham and rehabilitation unit in Surrey - to issue an apology.
"I'm sorry if anyone was offended, but that's the kind of comedy I do. If a silly joke draws attention to the plight of these servicemen, then so much the better," he said.
The joke may have been insensitive to some, but now a significant number of serving and veteran military service personnel injured in Afghanistan and Iraq have been selected for the London 2012 Paralympics.
Say what you like about these servicemen amputees from Iraq and Afghanistan, but we are going to have a [expletive deleted] good Paralympic team in 2012”
The numbers are notably larger than previous years, according to Penny Briscoe, performance director for the British Paralympic Association:
London 2012 (already selected)
Hotly tipped for London 2012
Private Derek Derenalagi, spoke to the Ouch! podcast, which first looked at Carr's joke:
The 35-year-old lost both legs in an explosion while on a routine patrol in Helmand province, Afghanistan in 2007.
"I lost both legs above the knee and had multiple injuries. I was pronounced dead in Camp Bastion, but when medical staff were preparing my body in a body bag, one of them found out I had a pulse."
Watching the 2008 Beijing Paralympics inspired him to give athletics a try.
"I decided it would be my career, and I've loved it since I started athletics. I'm hoping to qualify for discus, which is my main event, but I also do javelin and shot-put."
Once the final teams are announced, Briscoe estimates that serving or former military service personnel will make up about 2% of the total team.
By Rio in 2016, the percentage could have risen to 5%, she says.
There has been a big rise in Armed Forces amputees, particularly from Afghanistan, with modern medicine meaning survival rates from the battlefield are far higher than previous wars.
Figures from the Defence Analytical Services and Advice (Desa) centre show that 262 surviving UK service personnel sustained a partial or complete limb amputation resulting from injuries whilst on duty in Iraq or Afghanistan between 7 October 2001 and 31 March 2012.
The British Limbless Ex-Servicemen's Association puts the total post-9/11 amputee figure at 232. Desa includes finger amputations - while the charity does not, it says.
According to Desa figures, Afghanistan has taken the biggest toll - particularly in recent years - with 71 personnel affected in 09/10, 75 in 10/11 and 46 in 11/12.
All of the 2012 Paralympians were either injured, sick or wounded in 2009 or before. With 120 amputees from the past two years alone, all likely to be still be going through rehabilitation, there could be another bigger generation of Paralympians by 2020.
But it is not just amputees that have had an impact. There have also been a number of initiatives to encourage service personnel into sport.
Battle Back - an MoD led initiative, funded by Help for Heroes and The Royal British Legion - is run from the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court and enables wounded, injured and sick service personnel to engage in sport as part of their recovery.
The MoD says overcoming challenges is proven to enhance recovery and Battle Back is all about promoting confidence, independence and a positive mental attitude.
Major Martin Colclough, who runs the programme, says it has helped over 1,500 service personnel get back into sport since it was started in 2008.
"Sport can accelerate a more active and independent lifestyle, it makes people mentally and physically fit, and it is a device to make rehabilitation more interesting," he says.
Colclough says the aim of the programme is participation, and the Paralympic success have been an "interesting byproduct".
"Soldiers tend to have many qualities that are transferable to sport - like being athletic, having determination, self-discipline, planning skills, and knowing how to follow instructions and turn up on time.
"They have those innate traits and attributes, but they might not have the technical skill - many take up sports new to them. Some start to excel or get hooked, and make a positive choice to commit to a sport," he says.
Colclough says of the 88 service personnel that came to one of the programme's Paralympic Talent ID days, over 50 were identified as potentially talented, with 33 still actively engaged in a Paralympic sport.
The Paralympics is getting "back to its roots", notes Colclough. The games were inspired by a rehabilitation programme for British war veterans with spinal injuries in 1948.
"These are ordinary guys, who have gone through an extraordinary experience - who in many ways want to be ordinary again, but the Paralympics will be a second extraordinary experience," Colclough says.
One person who says sport has given his life new focus is former RAF technician Jon-Allan Butterworth, who lost his left arm after he was hit by rocket shrapnel in Iraq in 2007. He is now a Paralympic cyclist.
Butterworth says he went along to a Paralympic GB taster day a couple of months after he was injured, but didn't really think about doing anything for over a year.
"A Help for Heroes Bike Ride in 2008 was my first experience since my injury. I hadn't ridden a bike much - since I'd learnt how to do without stabilisers as a kid really - but enjoyed it. I also watched the Olympics in Beijing and thought it looked exciting, so I picked up the phone," he says.
The 26-year-old, who played sports like rugby and squash before his injury, says the cycling training has always been difficult, but was particularly hard in the first year, as he had put on a fair bit of weight.
After 12 months, "things started to click".
Arm and leg double amputees
"I found I was quite good at it, and enjoyed going fast. I've got a lot of focus now. I was at a loose end, so cycling became pretty important to me, it filled a hole. The Games gives me another chance to be in front of my country, like in the way I used to," he says.
For Butterworth, training for the Paralympics also reminds him of being in the Armed Forces.
"There is similar banter, there are lots of training camps. I am often packing a suitcase and living out of a bag - it's what I know," he says.
The Paralympian says he doesn't want to inspire people, but "if one person who thinks 'what can I do, I can't do anything in life?' after an injury takes inspiration from what [he] achieved in four years, it will be a positive thing".
And what of Carr's joke?
Butterworth says he wasn't upset by it at all, although he can understand how some people were offended.
"He was only saying what some people might have been thinking - even within some of the military, I think there was some thinking it was a sure bet loads more troops would be going to the sporting Games," he says.
Certainly initiatives like Front Line to Start Line, which hopes to help injured and sick servicemen and women make the progression towards the Paralympics, suggests there is a drive to enable high-performing individuals to reach the top of their sport.
But Colclough says even though servicemen and women were generally not offended by Carr's joke, "because it was the kind of banter they'd engage in themselves", as far as he is concerned, the comedian was not correct.
"The inaccuracy in the joke implied we'd have lots and lots of soldiers in the Paralympics. When it comes down to it, these are a few extraordinary servicemen and women," he says.
The numbers may not be huge yet, and will still only be one-in-20 in 2016, but that might change in 2020 if some of the large number of amputees from the past two years do well.
But overall Paralympic success is not the most important thing. The real story is about veterans overcoming horrific injuries to excel.
At 17:02:44 in EnglandTwelve new victims have made allegations of child sexual abuse in Rotherham since a report found at least 1,400 children were abused, police say.
At 17:02:03 in ScotlandPolice have appealed for help in tracing a woman and three children from the Pollok area of Glasgow who have been missing for the past week.
At 16:59:50 in HeadlinesFour UN peacekeepers have been killed and 15 injured by a landmine in northern Mali.
At 16:52:29 in HealthA global military intervention is needed to curb the largest ever Ebola outbreak, according to the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres.
At 16:50:46 in Northern IrelandA 20-year plan has been proposed to improve education in the area with the worst attainment record in Belfast.
At 16:50:13 in EnglandA man has been found guilty of bombarding a Labour MP with abusive messages on Twitter after she supported a feminist campaign.
At 16:46:49 in EnglandA major road improvement scheme has been delayed by more than a month because damage is worse than previously thought.
At 16:45:30 in SportIndia sent England to a humiliating nine-wicket defeat to win the fourth one-day international at Edgbaston and the five-match series 3-0.
At 16:44:45 in ScotlandEdinburgh City Council is examining ways to make a church bell quieter after learning it exceeds World Health Organisation night-time noise limits.
At 16:34:32 in Northern IrelandA court has ordered Irish police to apprehend a 16-year-old boy who had absconded from hospital.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Was Jimmy Carr right about the Paralympics? [Online] (Updated 4th Jul 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1438630/Was-Jimmy-Carr-right-about-the-Paralympics [Accessed 2nd Sep 2014]
News In Other Categories
With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
India sent England to a humiliating nine-wicket defeat to win the fourth one-day international at Edgbaston and the five-match series 3-0.
Police have appealed for help in tracing a woman and three children from the Pollok area of Glasgow who have been missing for the past week.
The release of hundreds of intimate images of celebrities has raised questions about the security of the online services used to share many of the snaps.
A global military intervention is needed to curb the largest ever Ebola outbreak, according to the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres.
US oilfield services firm Halliburton says it has reached a $1.1bn (£660m) settlement to meet the majority of claims against it for its role in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.