Not having fans at the Tokyo Paralympic Games will be “a challenge,” IPC chief Andrew Parsons said on Wednesday, but he is confident the event will reach “more people than ever”.
The Paralympic Games are set to open behind closed doors on Tuesday, after organizers this week decided to follow the example of the Olympics by banning spectators for fear of the virus.
Japan is currently battling record-breaking coronavirus infections, with Tokyo and other parts of the country in a state of emergency.
The president of the International Paralympic Committee, Parsons, told AFP that the decision to ban spectators will “have an impact that we cannot minimize”, but he believes that a global television audience will always put the Paralympic Games in the spotlight. center of the stage.
“Of course, the fact that we don’t have viewers at the venues is a challenge, but we believe we will reach over four billion people through the broadcast,” he said.
“So we still think the reach of these Games will be incredible. We will reach more nations and more people than ever before. “
The Games are accompanied by an upsurge in cases of the virus across Japan. More than 20,000 new daily infections have been recorded in recent days, caused by the Delta variant, which is more contagious.
The Japanese government has insisted that the Paralympic Games will be safe and that it remains committed to hosting them.
About 4,400 athletes are expected to participate in the event and, like their Olympic counterparts, will be subject to daily testing and movement restrictions.
Organizers of the Olympics from July 23 to August 8 reported 544 positive cases among athletes, officials and media, most among employees and contractors based in Japan.
They said there was no evidence the infections spread from Olympic participants to the Japanese public.
– ‘Wave of positivity’ –
Parsons said the implementation of the Olympic “bubble” had convinced him that the Paralympics could work.
“The main lesson is that we can run the Games in a safe way,” he said.
“We know the numbers are getting higher in Tokyo and Japan, so we want to protect Japanese society and we also want to protect our athletes. This is why we will not be complacent. “
Paralympic organizers have already reported 58 positive cases, and have also been embarrassed by the arrest of a Georgian judoka suspected of seriously injuring a security guard.
But Parsons insists the Paralympics “will not be a vector for the spread of the virus,” and said the event may ride a “wave of positivity” similar to that seen after the start of the Tokyo Olympics. .
While polls regularly showed the Japanese were opposed to the Olympics ahead of their opening, thousands of people gathered outside venues or along public streets to soak up the atmosphere.
And polls taken after the event ended showed that a majority felt their retention was the right decision.
“I think the Japanese people will be proud, not just the Japanese Paralympic athletes,” Parsons said.
“Because they are organizing an event that will change the world. I think we’ll see the same wave of positivity. “
The head of the IPC also believes that the legacy of the Paralympic Games will make the event interesting.
“The pandemic has highlighted some of the inequalities in different societies towards people with disabilities,” he said.
“This is the time when they need their voices to be heard the most. The Paralympic Games are the only global event that puts people with disabilities center stage.
“These Games will be the most important Paralympic Games of all time. “
© 2021 AFP