When the 2012 London Paralympics close this weekend, organizers will have cause to celebrate. More than 2.7 million tickets were sold, nearly 900,000 more than in Beijing. The Games were broadcast in more than 100 countries around the world. Ratings in Britian were so strong that Paralympic broadcaster Channel 4 expanded its coverage to 16 hours a day.
Viewers in the United States had a harder time finding coverage. NBC aired only 5 1/2 hours of highlights, mostly on the hard-to-find cable channel, NBC Sports.
In August the USOC promised “expanded coverage” of the 2012 Paralympic Games. But, most of the interviews, highlights, and events are found on the U.S. Paralympic Committee’s YouTube channel or on ParalympicSportTV, a YouTube feed of 500 hours of live coverage and highlights produced by the International Paralympic Committee.
Thursday’s international coverage offered two highlights: the men’s T44 100 meter finals featuring South African Oscar Pistorius, previously known as “the fastest man on no legs”, and the gold medal winning hand cycle performance of Alex Zanardi, the Italian F1 driver who lost his legs in a horrific crash at a race in Germany in 2001.
NBC’s decision to air so little from the Paralympics has drawn criticism, but the network is likely to look at how many people have tuned into the U.S. Paralympic YouTube channel to see whether expanded coverage is warranted for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. Those numbers aren’t as strong as they could be. As of this posting, many videos had been seen by just a few thousand viewers, and none came anywhere close to matching this:
British Paralympic table tennis player David Wetherill’s diving cross-court winner has become an internet sensation. Wetherill lost that match, but at last count his YouTube clip had more than four million views.