Sport, Nationalism and Global Multi-Identity Tension in Two Para-Sport Cities: London and Toronto

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 09:42
Oral Presentation
Jill LE CLAIR, Centre for Business in Society, Coventry University, United Kingdom
This paper presents results from a two-year study of the complex, sometimes contradictory identities of residents after the mega-sport events of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan American Games. Results from questionnaires illustrated tensions and intersections of bodily identities based on family origins and/or place of birth (nationality), citizenship, gender, dis/ability, and race/ethnicity. How the body is perceived and framed varied according to the context; unique government typologies such as Black British and Canadian Métis, historical factors, national discourses, and local political tensions impacted on perceptions of the self, and of para-athletes in mega-events (Beacom & Brittain 2017). Initially para-sport was focused on rehabilitation and disability-based, but after 1989 it increasingly shifted to sport-based competition with the emphasis on high performance as disabled athletes were renamed para-athletes and Paralympians (Le Clair 2016). Increasing size of the Games and media coverage led to celebrity, and their training and skills were described as ‘inspirational’ in both cities.

In a global world people ‘choose,’ or are given, elements that make up their multi-identities; race/colour and the separate ‘national’ identities of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland (Bond 2016; Simpson et al 2016) made up Team GB (Great Britain) in the Paralympic Games. However, 36.7% of London’s population was foreign-born (2011 UK Census), and 76.5% of participants identified as British. In Canada, hyphenated identity is an expected part of daily life (eg. Chinese-Canadian), and of the federal government’s official multicultural policy (Jedwab 2016). 48.6% of the population in Toronto is foreign-born (Statistics Canada 2011) and 76.4% of participants identified as Canadian, with 76% supporting Canadian teams. Other Canadian identities are those of Quebec, the majority French-speaking province, and the Indigenous First Nations (arguing for full autonomy), but all compete in para-sport as part of Team Canada.