TOKYO - International Paralympics Committee (IPC) president Andrew Parsons said the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games have already exceeded his expectations during a press conference on Monday at the Main Press Centre.
Parsons, who has been pictured wearing a Tokyo 2020 volunteer kit with many volunteers posting selfie pictures with the IPC supremo, was full of praise for the Games which was delayed by one year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and applauded the work of the host nation.
“We are having fantastic Games here,” said the Brazilian.
“The Games have exceeded my expectations. Thank you again 2020 Organising Committee. It has been an incredible journey of eight and a half years since they were the bidding committee, then they became an organising committee. They were prepared to deliver incredible Games, then the (Covid-19) pandemic hit the world really hard and we needed to do a U-turn in how we would deliver these Games together, and it’s been really fantastic so far.”
Parsons also discussed how imperative it has been to provide a safe environment for the athletes and the great resolve of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympian’s whose preparation has been greatly afflicted by the pandemic.
“We are providing a safe environment to the athletes; we are also protecting the Japanese population at the same time. Of course, we are having positive cases but the key is how we monitor that, how we track them and how we isolate them from other athletes, officials and the Japanese population.
“In the last 18 months of course athletes have been affected in their preparations due to restrictions, lockdowns, and Paralympians in many nations faced accessibility issues, even to get to the training, so lack of accessible transport sometimes, lack of accessible sporting structure in the nations. And if you add a pandemic on top of that it’s really hard for them.
Parsons, who has been in office since 2017, picked out some of the highlights so far of Tokyo’s second Paralympic Games.
“Seventy-three nations have won a medal so far, 41 of them won gold. We are seeing Japan coming up in the middle table which is fantastic to see, 13th place so far. So it’s not impossible to think about a top 10 finish, why not, and for the host nation it would be absolutely fantastic.
“Really interesting to see Azerbaijan in the top 10. New countries invest in Paralympic sport, winning medals, so it’s great to see that development after five years after Rio de Janeiro (2016), and we are seeing some great sports.
At the halfway point, Parsons offered his assessment of the Games so far.
“Halfway through the Games, I couldn’t be happier as IPC president, because the movement, the athletes, they are happy being here in Japan, they are feeling safe, protected, and they can focus on what they do best, which is put on some incredible performance.”
Parsons also paid tribute to former IOC President Jacques Rogge who died on Sunday at the age of 79.
“We’ve been lucky with IOC presidents. Our agreement with IOC was signed by Juan Antonio Samaranch and then in the year 2000 and in 2001 Jacques Rogge kept that relationship going. He was the president of the IOC during the London Paralympics (2012) which is still regarded as the benchmark for Paralympic Games, and we always had a very good relationship. He had a good relationship with my predecessor, Sir Philip Craven.
“Jacques was always instrumental to further develop the relationship between the two organisations when he was elected. It was before the Athens Games (2004). To think where the Paralympic Games was at the Athens Games and to see where we were in London, it’s amazing to see the growth and the IOC was fundamental for that. Athens was the first Games ever with to have one single organising committee for both the Olympics and the Paralympics and this makes a huge difference in the delivery of the Paralympics, as we are seeing here.”
IPC spokesman Craig Spence also provided an update on the Afghanistan team which arrived in Tokyo from Paris on Saturday.
“I’d like to thank the media here at Tokyo 2020 for respecting the privacy of the athletes, putting their mental health before your thirst for stories. I don’t think there’s anyone in this room who’s contacted them. There are a number of media around the world who have tried to contact the athletes directly. I’m not particularly impressed by them, it has to be said. I’ve got all the email requests and I will be going back to them today to share my views with them.
“This is all about making the athletes comfortable and doing what’s best for them. I know it’s a great story but we don’t have to focus on them for the rest of the Games. Let’s just treat them like any other athlete now they’re here. I’m super frustrated with the media outlets that have contacted with them. It’s just like, it’s wrong.”
Taekwondo athlete Zakia Khudadadi, 22, will compete in the women’s K44 -49kg weight category on 2 September at the Makuhari Messe Hall in Chiba while athletics competitor Hossain Rasouli, 26, will now take part in the long jump T47 event on Tuesday 31 August.
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympics come to a conclusion on 5 September with the closing ceremony at the new national stadium in Sendagaya, Tokyo.