When my friend won 2 tickets to fly British Airways to London and invited me to be her travel companion and then scheduled the trip for September so she could attend a friend's wedding, we heard a lot of "Aw, too bad you won't be in London for the Olympics."  I wasn't disappointed at all, because we got to see the Paralympics.  Same location as the other games.  Same beautiful sports venues.  The difference?  We were watching athletes who had physical and intellectual disabilities.  It was one of the most eye-opening, interesting, exciting experiences of my life.

Seeing blind men master the triple jump; watching runners with prosthetic legs go at lightning fast speeds; watching a swimmer with no arms do the backstroke.  It was inspiring.  Spending that one day at the Paralympics and watching nightly on TV, I got to learn the stories behind the disabilities...car crash, shark attack, menengitis.  During the interviews with athletes, I found myself engaged by their smiles, determination and enthusiasm, not noticing their disabilities.

Swimmer Ellie Simmonds became the "It Girl" of the games, her multiple gold medals hanging off her dwarf-sized body.  I loved seeing giant billboards of her all around London.   The city did a great job of showcasing the Paralympians as the skilled athletes and role models they are.  The lesson of the week really was to celebrate peoples abilities, not focus on their disabilities.