BEIJING, Aug. 24 (Xinhua) — The Tokyo Paralympics can only go ahead “if we can guarantee a safe and healthy environment,” International Paralympic Committee president Andrew Parsons told Xinhua in an interview ahead of the one-year countdown to the postponed Paralympic Games.
Meanwhile, Parson lauded China as a good partner in preparing the Beijing Winter Paralympics in the pandemic situation.
The Tokyo Paralympics marked its second one-year milestone on Monday. Progress has been made after the Games were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Parsons.
“We are working diligently with Tokyo 2020,” said Parsons. “We have some fundamental principles agreed on. And the fundamental principle is that the games can only go ahead if we can guarantee a safe and healthy environment.”
In a previous interview, he said the coronavirus poses more threat to some para-athletes, but the standards should remain the same, whether she or he has a disability or not.
“The issue of (holding) practices is a little bit unpredictable. We have a moving target,” he said, “But the only way to react to uncertainty is to be flexible.”
“We are also trying to… help Tokyo 2020 save some money, and this could be a blueprint for the future, this exercise of reducing and downsizing the footprint of the Games,” he said, stressing that the procedure does not involve lowing accessibility standards.
When asked whether the Games will be held behind closed doors, his answer was clear.
“That’s not something we’re considering at the moment. We have explored different scenarios, but this is not one of them. We believe that spectators are an essential part of the product. It is not only for the athletes… but also for the people watching all around the world.”
The curtain of Tokyo Paralympics will fall on September 5, 2021, resulting in a gap of only six months before the opening ceremony of Beijing Winter Paralympics on March 4, 2022.
“Of course it brings challenges to our team, but at the same time, also some opportunities,” he said. “The six-month gap, in terms of promotion, actually gives us some opportunity.”
“We are also lucky to have by our side a very reliable organizing committee. Beijing delivered an incredible Paralympic Games back in 2008. So you know also if you’re going to a situation while we are facing now with the pandemic, you need a good partner, and we are in a safe pair of hands with China.”
“I think we will be able to maximize the opportunities created from these challenges,” he concluded.
China won 107 gold medals and 239 medals in total in the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games, ranking first on both gold medal and total medal tables for the 4th consecutive time. The Chinese wheelchair curling team also won the first-ever Winter Paralympic gold medal in the 2018 PyeongChang Games, where Parsons witnessed the milestone of the country’s winter sports.
“China is progressing very well and has high ambitions. You are preparing to host what will be probably the best Winter Olympic Games ever,” he said. “When China decides to do something, China really does it!”
In June 2018, Parsons paid a visit to Beijing, where he met Zhang Haidi, head of China’s National Paralympic Committee at the China Administration of Sports for Persons with Disabilities, a training center that impressed him a lot.
“You have the main training center on the outskirts of Beijing which I already have visited. And it’s incredible to see that the athletes are not only training there, they also have a school there. And they come out of this process as good citizens, which is great to see. When they finish their (athletic) careers, they can be good advocates for people with disabilities,” he said.
“Sport is a very powerful tool to achieve not only at all gold, silver and bronze medals, but also to allow a person with a disability to become citizens of their society. This is the legacy that we want from the Games.” Enditem
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