The overwhelming majority of Belgians look up to Paralympic sportsmen and women and attach importance to their achievements, according to a new poll by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB).
The survey showed that 86% of the roughly 2,000 respondents, who were evenly divided between Francophone and Flemish respondents, viewed the Paralympians as role models, while 82% felt they contributed to improving the inclusion of disabled persons in society.
Asked whether they should promote sports among young people living with handicaps, 79% responded in the affirmative.
Respondents also said they were interested in the performances of Paralympic sportsmen and sportswomen, with 73% finding it important for Belgium to win medals and 80% stating that a Paralympic medal was just as important as an Olympic one.
However, in Flanders, only 4% of the budget for high-level sport is allocated to disabled sports, which is way too little, according to VUB Professor Veerle De Bosscher.
“To equal or better the 15 medals won this year at the next (Paralympic) games, more resources are needed to support the Paralympic athletes and their entourage,” she pointed out. “If high-level sport has a high social value, then you should dare to invest more.”