Pandemic makes Tokyo ‘most important Paralympics in history’ – IPC president

There has never been a greater need for a Paralympic Games than those due to start in Tokyo in 100 days’ time, according to the president of the International Paralympic Committee.

Sunday marks the milestone countdown moment for the event, which like the Olympics which precedes it takes place amid the coronavirus pandemic.

While that has meant most of the talk has been about why the Games should not happen, IPC chief Andrew Parsons insists the global crisis is the very reason why they must go ahead.

“This is the only global event that puts people with a disability at centre stage,” he told the PA news agency.

“We are giving a voice to one billion people, we are giving a voice to 15 per cent of the world’s population in the moment when they need their voice to be heard the most.

“We believe these Games are the most important in the history of the Paralympic movement, and it is because of the pandemic. The pandemic has disproportionately affected people with disability around the globe.”

He also hopes the Games going ahead will change how Japanese people perceive disability.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

“It comes from an angle of super-protection,” he said.

“Tokyo is an accessible city but you don’t see people with a disability moving around, they are kept at home.

“What we want to achieve with the Paralympics is to show that people with disability don’t need to be protected, they need to be given the opportunity to be whatever they want to be.

“The effect of over-protecting them and keeping them at home is negative. You cannot say it is as negative as discrimination, but it’s negative because you’re not allowing them to be an active part of society.”

Parsons is “convinced” the Games will go ahead, but can understand the “fear and anger” of some among the Japanese population who want them to be cancelled.

“The way we can respond to that is with information, sharing with them our plans, informing them how we plan to protect them and to not allow the Games to be a big spreader,” he said.

As with the Olympic Games, Paralympic athletes and personnel will be subject to regular testing and must follow strict protocols around social distancing.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

The IPC is conducting its own review of athletes’ right to protest, following on from a similar initiative in the Olympic Movement.

Like the IOC’s Rule 50, the IPC ethics code states athletes should “refrain from using the Games to promote any political agenda”.

Parsons said the preliminary findings of the IPC’s Athletes’ Council “show some alignment” with the IOC Athletes’ Commission own review, which supported maintaining a ban on the podium and the field of play.

Parsons added: “We are a movement that is a platform for change, so we do understand putting sport at the service of a higher purpose, but there are different ways and the right ways of doing so.

“We need to protect all of the athletes’ experience.”