Postponed Paralympic Games Must ‘Guarantee’ Coronavirus Free, Says IPC Chief

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Tokyo (AFP)

Next year’s Paralympic Games must be able to guarantee zero cases of the coronavirus, the games official told AFP, adding that they could not proceed if protective measures did not improve.

The warning from the president of the International Paralympic Committee, Andrew Parsons, comes as Tokyo marks exactly one year ahead of the Games postponed on Monday, with the pandemic still raging around the world.

Parsons said some para-athletes were particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus and at current risk levels the Paralympic Games could not take place.

“If the situation were as it is today… if we were to start tomorrow, we couldn’t continue,” Parsons said in an interview. “We need to know more, to prepare better. ”

After a recent surge in coronavirus cases, Tokyo is skipping the genre of public events held in 2019 to mark a year ahead of the Games’ initial start date.

The unprecedented decision to delay the Olympic and Paralympic Games due to the pandemic has created a logistical nightmare for organizers, and concerns remain as to whether they can take place safely.

Parsons said current social distancing measures and testing and tracing standards would not be enough to protect some 4,350 athletes, staff and tens of thousands of fans, volunteers and the media.

“We do not work with acceptable levels of risk. This is the bottom line, this is where we draw the line in the sand, ”he said.

“How do we make sure we don’t have a single case? Just one case in the village can really disrupt the Games. ”

– ‘Really severe, really fast’ –

It remains to be seen what measures will be necessary and possible.

Tokyo organizers and Olympic and Paralympic officials are expected to start talks next month on everything from quarantines to the exclusion of fans.

Parsons stopped before saying he was optimistic about the continuation of the Paralympic Games, saying instead he was “encouraged” by the restart of leagues like the NBA.

But he recognized that the Games will be infinitely more complicated than other competitions, given their size, number of events and their international character.

“That’s why I’m saying if we don’t find out better ways to do it, social distancing, monitoring, testing, it’s going to be very difficult,” Parsons said.

“What we need to have different from what Olympic athletes have is not the protection to prevent them from being contaminated, it is what happens if they are contaminated because it can be very serious,” very fast, ”he added.

“The standard we have to adopt is that it doesn’t matter whether you have a disability or not. You don’t catch the virus, period. ”

Parsons also warned that the fallout from the coronavirus posed a long-term threat to para-sports, if government and sponsor support wanes.

As high-performance professional sport has made a temporary comeback from its coronavirus arrest, athletes with disabilities face greater obstacles in returning to training and competition.

The pandemic has “highlighted some inequalities across the world,” he said, adding that there were fears that “the attention of governments, or even media support or even sponsors, is falling. only on these big leagues or athletes ”.

Parsons added that the lack of accessible and wheelchair-friendly housing in Tokyo remained a problem and there would likely be a shortage of suitable hotel rooms.

He said the IPC was on high alert to ensure that cost-cutting measures needed for shrunken and postponed Games did not involve lower accessibility standards, which he called ” non-negotiable ”.

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