Flagbearer Fearnley says closing ceremony controversy blown out of proportion
Australian flagbearer Kurt Fearnley says the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony broadcast gaffe must be put into perspective, saying there are issues affecting people with disabilities that are more worthy of "firing up" about.
Television viewers were denied the chance to watch para-athlete Fearnley lead the Australian team into Carrara Stadium, with organisers deciding to bring all athletes into the grounds before the ceremony so they didn't have to "stand around".
That decision has been widely criticised, including live on air by Channel 7 commentators Johanna Griggs and Basil Zempilas, while Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation (GOLDOC) chairman Peter Beattie admitting that they "stuffed up".
But in an interview with wheelchair tennis star Dylan Alcott on triple j Breakfast, Fearnley, who heads into retirement from representing Australia with a marathon gold, said there were far greater issues affecting people with disabilities that were worth highlighting.
"If we're going to fire up, I just kept thinking about it, there's so many reasons that we could be firing up right now," Fearnley said.
"The time will come when another guy in a wheelchair gets kicked off a flight because we need to put two people on for them.
"We're not allowed to be fathers or sons or business people because we can't fly like everyone else does. That's worth blowing up about.
"When there's somebody who's not catered for in our public education, that's worth blowing up about.
"When we're not funding people enough to even go to the toilet and feel catered for, that's worth blowing up about."
'Commonwealth Games took a big leap forward'
External Link: Players Voice tweet: "'Too often disabled people are marginalised by invisibility. These games have helped remove that cloak.' Aussie legend @kurtfearnley's emotional and thoughtful thank you to Australia. #PlayersVoice #GC2018"
The 13-time Paralympic medallist had already praised organisers for integrating the para-sports program into the wider Games event, saying it was time for Australia to embrace inclusion of people with disabilities.
And he continued on that theme while talking to Alcott, saying it was giant progress for the Games as a whole.
"GOLDOC nailed that. We have just kicked so many goals independently, in the Paralympic movement but the Commonwealth Games took a big leap forward in the last two weeks," Fearnley said.
Fearnley said the decision not to show his big moment on television took nothing away from the "surprising but pretty intense" decision to name him flagbearer or his enjoyment of the Games.
"To put it in perspective, we nailed those two weeks," he said.
"It was the best two weeks of my life — the best event that I've ever been a part of."