No reason to sanction Israel, Games should promote peace, says head of International Paralympic Committee – Sport

PARIS: Wars and conflicts should not influence participation in the Games, which need to convey a message of hope and support, and Israel should not be sanctioned, Andrew Parsons, the head of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said.

The IPC said in March that Russian and Belarusian athletes joining the Paris 2024 Paralympics would not be part of their opening ceremony.

Russian and Belarusian athletes cannot take part in team competitions at the July 26-Aug 11 Olympics and the Aug 28-Sept 8 Paralympics, but are allowed to participate as neutrals — without flags or anthems being played.

Israel, however, will fully participate in the Games despite at least 35,456 Palestinians having been killed in Israel’s military offensive on Gaza since Oct 7, according to Gaza’s latest health ministry figures. Israel says its strikes are targeted at militants.

“The situations are different… The Russian and Belarusian Paralympic Committees were suspended because both organisations have breached the (Olympic) constitution,” Parsons told Reuters 100 days before the start of the Paris Paralympics.

“They used the Olympic movement to promote the war and the invasion of Ukraine.”

Olympic authorities believe Israel should not be penalised.

“In the case of Israel, the Paralympic Committee and even the Palestine Paralympic Committee have not done anything of that nature, so we don’t have any process in place when it comes to suspending those national Paralympic committees,” Parsons explained.

“So far, the two national Paralympic (committees) are in line with our constitution, and we don’t have any suspension process in place targeting those two nations.”

Parsons added the Olympic movement should keep a cool head and promote peace.

“We don’t want to be directed by the conflicts around the world. I think the message is the other way around, that even if there are countries who are in conflict, even in the most difficult and challenging situations, support can still be a beacon of hope,” Parsons said.

“And I think, for example, the refugees team are a good example of that.”

Parsons said the refugee team, which will be unveiled next week, would be the biggest there has ever been at a Paralympics.

London 2012 is seen as a turning point in the history of the Paralympic Games but Parsons is confident Paris will also be a vintage edition, even if most tickets have yet to be sold.

Paris 2024 has sold about 900,000 tickets, leaving some 1.9 million still up for grabs.

“The curve that we have the moment is very similar to the curve that we had in London,” he said.

“For example, in London we had a 1.3 million tickets sold in the last three months and in Rio, we had two million tickets sold in the last eight weeks.

“So yes, we have the expectation now that the ticket sales will pick up.”


Parsons believes the Games “will have a big impact on how people with disability are perceived around the world”.

“This is one of the key expectations we have around Paris 2024; we believe that we need people with disability to be put back on the global agenda,” Parsons told AFP in an interview.

He says disability has fallen behind issues such as gender identity in recent years.

“We do believe people with disability have been left behind. There is very little debate about persons with disability.”

The Covid pandemic exacerbated the situation.

“In the pandemic, they were really affected. Some of the health systems, even in big nations, were put to the test and they have failed people with disability,” Parsons said.

After the Covid-blighted 2020 Tokyo Paralympics and the 2022 Winter Paralympics in Beijing that largely played out in empty venues, Paris represents a return to normality — and crowds.

“We’ll have spectators back, and this is a huge difference from Tokyo and Beijing,” Parsons, a Brazilian, said.

“There is a Paris effect, to be close to iconic landmarks, to have five-a-side football at the Eiffel Tower or taekwondo at the Grand Palais. The images that people will see around the world will be fantastic.”

The IPC is confident the TV audience for Paris will surpass the 4.1 billion who watched the Tokyo Paralympics, helped by kinder times for viewers in Europe and the Americas.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2024

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