Sports writing, Aug 23 . .- “The Tokyo Games without an audience are not discussed at this time.” This is how resounding the president of the International Paralympic Committee, Andrew Parsons, is shown in an interview with EFE, in which he says he is “positive” in the face of its celebration because “there is time” to find a vaccine and that the coronavirus pandemic remits Worldwide.
Parsons (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; 1971) “is not that I am optimistic, although I am positive” with the Paralympic Games in Tokyo one year from now. They will be a special appointment for everything that is being lived and that will serve to “talk about integration” and take “a new attitude for the future.”
Q: There is one year left until the Games. At what point is your preparation?
A: We are at a time of planning with the International Olympic Committee and the Organizing Committee. We are going to lower the cost of the event, we have identified more than two hundred possibilities to reduce them and it is a very important exercise for the future. If there is something positive about this time, it is that we will be able to organize Games only with what is absolutely essential and not touching anything that is important for the experience of the athletes.
We also want to guarantee the health of all the people related to the Games in the stadiums, the villas, the streets … nobody knows what the world will be like in a year and whether or not there will be a vaccine and therefore we have to maximize the security.
Q: What can be done to stem the wave of pessimism with an event as global as the Games?
A: There are parts of Spain or the world that are facing a second wave of coronavirus, but we have to think that we are one year away from the Games. There’s time. The brightest people in the world are focused on the vaccine and I am hopeful that it will go well. Not that I’m optimistic, but I am very positive. Events such as the Football Champions League, the NBA or the Football Leagues in different countries are being celebrated differently and with this we learn. Still, the Olympics and Paralympics are bigger and you have to adapt.
Q: Would a scenario be to do a Games without an audience?
A: The public is part of the Games and having no public, at this time, is not discussed with Tokyo. I don’t think we will change.
Q: How has the pandemic affected the International Paralympic Committee economically?
A: For 2020 we are fine. We reduced the budget by 5%, the operational budget by a little more, and we are well adapted. For 2021 we depend on the Games. If we have a good Games and if not it will be very hard for the Olympic and Paralympic movement. In terms of income, we have not had losses because neither sponsor nor television with rights have fallen, but on the other side, that of costs, we have insurance and if the Games are canceled it will be very difficult.
Q: From the IPC it has always been said that Tokyo would surpass London 2012. With everything that has happened, is it still possible?
A: The Paralympic Games, if they are bigger or have more people, it matters less now, but if the meaning can finally be celebrated and the impact will be greater than London, Beijing or Rio. It will mean that the pandemic has been left behind and it will be of great importance as humanity defeats adversity.
We are all concerned about our health. The pandemic makes us take more care of ourselves and the family and I believe that the Games will be a catalyst to talk about integration, disability, inclusion and a new attitude towards the future.
Q: How is rankings being handled?
A: We work on qualification and classification. It is something that we propose with different options because we do not know if the competitions will return this year or it will be in February or April 2021. What we can guarantee is that no athlete will be without their opportunity to qualify for Tokyo. Universality is a core value of the Games and that will not change. The countries that have less financial resources and cannot participate in qualifying events, we will ensure that there is a balance to qualify for their place. This is changing because it advances as time passes and we will adapt.
Q: Could the number of athletes be expanded if many could not attend qualifying events?
A: The quota is closed. There are 4,350 athletes in 22 sports. We are not going to increase, but we are not going to reduce either. The number of tests is not going to change either.
Q: Tokyo to Beijing 2022 won’t be long. Is that closeness between the two Games worrying?
A: The IPC team that works with the Organizing Committee is the same and we focus on opportunities. Having two Games with an interval of six months allows us to keep our interest in Paralympic sport alive and we think about how to promote Beijing with Tokyo and Tokyo with Beijing because they are two different markets.
Q: At the beginning of your term, you said that in 2020 you wanted there to be a Para-African Games. What has happened?
A: The pandemic has had nothing to do with it. Morocco decided not to host the Games because there was a very long gap between the Pan African Games (Casablanca and Rabat, August 2019). Then the Ministry of Sports in Morocco changed and the people who were engaged left. We were sad but there was little to do. Now we work with the African Union, which is a union of governments, not sports federations. We want to involve the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) to sign the contract but with the pandemic it is stopped. Next up is Ghana 2023, but we don’t know if they will go ahead.
Q: How has this pandemic affected the South American committees?
A: It depends on the country. Ecuador went through difficult times with the pandemic and it was terrible because we lost athletes and leaders, but in general these Committees that depend on governments have not been so financially affected. Committees that are larger and have income from their events and sponsorships will suffer the most.
In Argentina the athletes are very angry because the Olympians were allowed to train and the Paralympians were not. In Brazil there is a peculiar situation because the national Paralympic Committee is strong and the athletes already train in their own center, but in Central America it has affected a lot because the Paralympic infrastructure almost does not exist.
Q: As president of the IPC, what message do you send to the entire Paralympic movement?
A: Everything must be seen with the eyes of the Paralympic athlete who overcomes his challenges and challenges every day with great mental strength. I follow that example and am focused on what I can do and what I have control over. If I regretted, I would be wrong. You have to protect yourself but also not be affected by other people’s things. We work very hard to have Games. We do not control the pandemic, but our commitment is work.