The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) launched a new initiative known as PARA SPORT on Wednesday. The initiative will see the organization bring a more holistic approach to their representation of para sport.
Developed as a grassroots-to-high performance program, PARA SPORT will bring together major and minor events, activities, and organizations within para sport to bring increased visibility and opportunity to persons with disabilities.
The initiative will focus on three core elements: awareness, community, and freedom. The IPC seeks to increase participation in para sport through raising the international profile of para sport. The initiative also calls for greater inclusion and empowerment of people with disabilities through the practice of para sport.
A narrative developed for the initiative, “It Starts With Sport,” will guide the new program in its infancy as it aims to link grassroots involvement with high performance sports. The IPC also noted how the narrative complements their own self-stated brand narrative “Change Starts With Sport.”
Andrew Parsons, IPC President, stated, “the launch of PARA SPORT is a seminal moment as we show that sport can be a new beginning for everyone. It is fantastic for us to have platforms where elite athletes can impress the world with their medal-winning performances and encourage persons with disabilities to begin a journey in sport.”
“With PARA SPORT we see sport not only as what it means for performance, but what it can do to signal a new chance at life.”
“Whether you are a beginner, an amateur already in Para sport or aspiring athlete, we believe that everyone deserves recognition and support in whatever competition they’re in, no matter their level. We want to ensure that sport is recognized for its impact on the wider community and not simply as an activity.”
In an exclusive interview with Around the Rings, Parsons further explained his vision for the role of the IPC. He stated, “I think one of the good things about the [upcoming] approval of the Constitution in December is that we refine our purpose. Our purpose is now, [on] what we call three pillars.”
“One is about athletes and members, so [how] we develop athlete pathways and how we can provide sport opportunities for athletes, and we do it through the members.”
He continued, “second is the Paralympic Games; both winter and summer. It’s the driver, it brings the interest, it’s the objective, it brings revenue.”
“The third pillar, which is something new, is what we do to make sport a more inclusive world through Para sport. It’s what we do in, what I call, the wider human rights disability movement. Basically, what sport can change in the world for 1.2 billion people and not only for the 4,400 athletes competing at the [Paralympic] Games.”
“This is why we launched We The 15 last year for example. Because, if you think, the Paralympic Games is the only global event that puts persons with disabilities center stage, in any area, so why not use that platform to benefit 1.2 billion people.”
“To benefit them we need to work with partners because we need to talk about influence in employment, mobility, accessibility, and we are not experts in that. We are [a] sport organization, so that’s why we brought together these 20 organizations under the umbrella of We The 15 that we launched during Tokyo Games.”
Laying down a defense of the new initiatives undertaken by the IPC, Parsons stated, “it’s not only the right thing to do, but it’s what brings us back to where we started.”
He added, “there is no identity crisis. We are a sport organization, a high performance sport organization, but what athletes do on the field of play needs to mean something higher than only gold, silver, and bronze.”
A dedicated website, along with specific social media channels, were launched to house the PARA SPORT initiative. A promotional film featuring narration from para swimmer Alice Tai was also released to mark the launch of PARA SPORT.
In the film, Alice Tai reiterates the goal of PARA SPORT, stating, “sport is for all of us. From first timers to world champions. From grassroots to gold medals.”
Specifics about how the IPC intends to raise the profile of para sport remain uncertain, but it’s clear the organization is now focused on having a larger impact in both the international social and sports sphere.