Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 30 October 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Let's be inspired by our athletes

It was just a couple of weeks ago that we were marvelling at the exploits of the athletes taking part in the London Olympics. Now our focus will turn to even more astonishing athletes over the next few weeks.

They are the competitors in the Paralympic Games and the Transplant Games. Each in their own way have defied great odds to reach this level of competition.

And while they will strive mightily to reach the podium, these are two sporting occasions when taking part is truly of equal merit to winning.

Yesterday saw the lighting of the Paralympic flame on Slieve Donard and it surely is a burning tribute to the strength of the human will and the indomitable spirit of those taking part.

Each of them will carry a disability, but that has acted as a spur to them to fulfil their personal dreams, rather than an obstacle as most able-bodied people would regard it.

Our Paralympic competitors will be fine ambassadors for the province in their sporting endeavours.

Today sees the start of the British Transplant Games where the competitors are grateful to be alive, never mind able to compete as serious athletes. Each competitor owes their survival or renewed quality of life to the donation of a vital organ and the skill of the medical teams who carried out the transplant operation. These Games are run annually to highlight the need for people to sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register.

At present only one in four adults in Northern Ireland is a registered organ donor.

Happily the number of those signing up is rising, but there are currently 300 people here awaiting the gift of a suitable organ.

For some of them time may be running short, but for all of them a transplant is a vital requirement. As we watch the athletes who have had transplants perform over the next few days their good health should spur us to sign the register.

One day we could save several people's lives. What a worthwhile legacy that would be.

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