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Paralympic Games broadcast rights still up in the air

Curtis McGrath is disappointed the Nine Network did not buy the rights for the 2032 Paralympics.

Curtis McGrath is disappointed the Nine Network did not buy the rights for the 2032 Paralympics. Photo: AAP

Australian soldier turned Paralympian Curtis McGrath is disappointed the Nine Network bought the broadcasting rights to the 2032 Brisbane Olympics but not the Paralympics.

“You can’t be what you can’t see,” he told AAP on Wednesday.

“Having that unknown or that uncertainty around our future is obviously a little bit concerning.”

Channel Nine struck a $305 million broadcast deal with the International Olympic Committee in February for the next five Olympic games, including the Brisbane 2032 games.

However, rights for the Paralympics were not included in the IOC negotiations.

Paralympics Australia CEO Catherine Clark said talks were ongoing with alternative broadcasters, including incumbent broadcasters Channel Seven, and an announcement would be made soon.

“We want to get the best deal possible for our Paralympians. The question now is who wants Australia’s most-loved team,” she said.

Paralympics Australia launched its decade-long strategic plan on Wednesday, with a focus on raising the platform of disabled athletes.

“It’s much more than just a strategy about sport,” president Jock O’Callaghan said.

“This is a blueprint for harnessing the power of Paralympic sport to make Australia a better place.”

In Sydney 2000, the Australian Paralympic team was at the top of the table with 286 Paralympians and 149 medals.

But the Tokyo 2020 games told a different story, with Australia finishing eighth with only 174 Paralympians and 80 medals.

The decline in success and representation on the world stage is multifaceted, the organisation says.

Although 20 per cent of Australians have a disability, only one in four participate in sport, while three in four would like to participate.

Continued barriers to participation and a lack of on-screen representation is a major factor in the decline in Australian Paralympic success, according to McGrath.

“If we’re not seeing people with disability out in society, whether it is on the sporting field or on the Sunrise desk or in corporate Australia, we can’t see those opportunities for ourselves, growing up and becoming those people,” he said.

As well as seeking further representation, Paralympics Australia is calling for a significant funding boost in its strategic plan.

In the past two financial years, only 15 per cent of federal government High Performance sport funding and only nine per cent of Performance Pathways funding went to Paralympic programs.

For McGrath, a combat engineer who lost both his legs in Afghanistan before becoming a 10-time para canoeing gold medallist, elevating disabled athletes is personal.

“We need to make sure there are equal opportunities because we want kids to go down that path,” he said.

“We can do a whole lot more with just a little bit more support.”

-AAP

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