Featured on the Channel 4 trailer for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games,THE SUPERHUMAN BAND bring you the toe-tapping “YES I CAN”
Made up of a group of sixteen incredibly talented musicians from all around the globe and cast through extensive online research to track and encapsulate the superhuman spirit.
As Britain settles in to the starting blocks for another Olympic and Paralympic summer, it isn’t just the athletes involved who are feeling pressure to replicate the astonishing successes of London 2012.
The answer was to not merely aim to make a better advert for Rio 2016, it seems, but an entirely different one. Gone is the aggressive, defiant tone of the original film; gone too is the rap soundtrack. Instead it’s a celebratory affair involving an international cast of thousands (well, hundreds), featuring just as many non-athletes as Paralympic stars.
“not merely aim to make a better advert for Rio 2016, it seems, but an entirely different one”
Set to a cover version of Sammy Davis Jr’s triumphant Yes I Can,recorded by a group of disabled musicians assembled from around the world, the new advert is a patchwork of 65 frames – showcasing the extraordinary talents of many ordinary people living with all manner disabilities.
Among familiar Paralympic faces are members of the public at home, stunt performers, rally drivers and dancers. The idea, says Brooke, was to build on the sentiment of the original campaign.
“It was about broadening what ‘superhuman’ means,” he explains. “We didn’t want to have that word apply to just the thin sliver of people that are world class athletes, but anybody with a disability. Even if it’s just getting around in everyday life, we wanted this to be a celebration of that.”
One of the Paralympic athletes featured in film, wheelchair sprinter Hannah Cockroft, who won two of Britain’s 34 golds in London, welcomes the addition of disabled non-athletes alongside Paralympic heroes.
“The first advert was brilliant, but after the success of London there might have been people saying to other disabled people, ‘well, if they can do it why can’t you?’, which can upset people. You’d never assume that every able-bodied person should be able to run as fast as Usain Bolt, so you can’t expect all wheelchair users to push like [6-time gold medallist] David Weir,” she says. “Disabled people, just like the able-bodied, have their own talents and abilities; we are unique, and that’s an important message to get out there.”
“Disabled people, just like the able-bodied, have their own talents and abilities; we are unique, and that’s an important message to get out there.”
Acutely aware of that, Channel 4 enlisted the help of award-winning director Dougal Wilson to helm their latest effort, shooting predominantly at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre in May. As the Midas touch behind three John Lewis Christmas adverts, including 2014’s wildly successful Monty the Penguin, it’s hoped Wilson can strike again with ‘Yes I Can’.
According to Paralympic silver medallist Libby Clegg, a registered blind sprinter, some of those attitudes are already altering.
“Even in the last four years, the public’s perception of us has changed massively. People recognize Paralympic athletes now, and they’re genuinely interested and inspired by what we do,” she says.
Cockroft, who was left with deformed legs as a result of two cardiac arrests shortly after birth, has experienced a similar shift in attitudes.
“If I walked anywhere before I’d get stared at,” she says. “But recently I was out and a little girl turned to her mum and said, ‘Mummy, why don’t I walk like that?’ I loved it. She questioned herself, not me, and saw it as just a different way of doing things. It shows how far we’ve come.”
With the Games a little more than a month away, and the small matter of the abled-bodied Olympics to whet appetites, there’s little doubt that public support will be hearty. As with any campaign, however, keeping that momentum will be a marathon, not a sprint.
“Starting here, Rio brings this whole movement to life again,” Cockroft says, optimistically. “It’ll bring more role models and icons, meaning more people will be inspired. It can only keep improving, and, fingers crossed, as long as Rio is a success then things will only get better for us in the long term.”