Paralympics Tokyo 2020: 3 keys that will mark some games “different” from the previous ones

Postponed for a year due to the pandemic and with the possibility of attending stadiums restricted to a limited number of schoolchildren, the Tokyo Paralympic Games that begin this Tuesday will be very different from all the previous ones.

But its organizers not only aspire to offer high-level competition, they also want this event to play an important role in making Japanese society more inclusive.

Tokyo is the first city to host two Paralympic Games in its history , having hosted the 1964 edition when 375 athletes from 21 countries participated in nine sports.

This time around 4,400 athletes from 162 national Paralympic committees will participate in 539 competitions in 22 sports.

Everyone will be eager to leave the turbulent events of the last 18 months of the pandemic behind and show the rest of the world what they can do as Paralympians on the biggest stage of all.

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The opening ceremony will begin at the 20:00 of Tuesday in Japan (GMT + 9 early hours of the day in Latin America) competences and begin the next day.

After the budget cuts suffered by the Rio Paralympic Games, there was high hope that the Tokyo Games would return the Paralympic movement to a position of strength after the good level achieved in London 2012.

Tokyo seemed like the perfect solution, with a strong link between Olympic and Paralympic staging and unprecedented demand for tickets.

The preparatory events held in 2019 featured activities that attracted massive participation and showed the desire of the Japanese public to support the games.

But the coronavirus pandemic destroyed all the plans and forced them to postpone their celebration for a year and impose a series of protocols that affect all those involved, as happened in the Olympic Games.

Here we offer you three keys that will mark an edition of the Paralympics that, without a doubt, will be very different from those held so far.

1. A headquarters in a state of emergency

The Tokyo Paralympic Games will take place in a city under a state of emergency, where COVID-19 cases continue to increase.

Within the Paralympic bubble, as in the Olympics, there are strict protocols that include daily tests for athletes , mandatory use of masks and social distancing.

Also, equipment such as wheelchairs must be disinfected regularly.

“I am sure it will be a safe Games, but that does not mean that there will be zero cases,” International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons told BBC Sport.

“We will have cases. But how we control and react to positive cases, and do not let them spread the virus, will define whether we are successful or not.”

Travel restrictions due to the coronavirus have had an impact on the games and athletes from Pacific island nations such as Samoa, Kiribati, Tonga and Vanuatu have not been able to travel.

News of his absence came days after the two Paralympic athletes from Afghanistan were forced to withdraw due to the situation in their country following the collapse of the government and the return of the Taliban.

However, as a show of solidarity, a volunteer from the games will carry the country’s flag at the opening ceremony.

In addition, a six-person refugee team will participate in these games, including Afghan swimmer Abbas Karimi and the team’s first female member, shot put Alia Issa.

2. The new sports

In these Paralympics there will be competitions sailing or and football 7 .

Instead, para-badminton and para-taekwondo will be incorporated, which will feature 14 and six medal competitions respectively. title,

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Four sports (canoeing, shooting, table tennis and wheelchair fencing) have more competitions than in Rio.

However, the two most important sports in terms of number of athletes and medals, para-athletics and para-swimming, have fewer events than five years ago .

Both sports have introduced new mixed relay events.

The universal relay in athletics has a runner with a visual impairment in the first stage, an amputee runner in the second, an athlete with cerebral palsy or coordination problems in the third stage, and a wheelchair runner in the last stage.

Swimming, meanwhile, has added a 4x100m relay. for S14 (learning disability) competitors.

3. The outstanding athletes

From German ‘Blade jumper’ Markus Rehm to American wheelchair racer Tatyana McFadden, to Brazilian swimmer Daniel Dias to Japanese wheelchair tennis favorites Shingo Kunieda and Yui Kamiji, there will be prominent athletes at the competencies.

Poland’s Natalia Partyka will be seeking her fifth consecutive table tennis title , weeks after competing in the Olympics for the fourth time.

Italian wheelchair fencer Bebe Vio, who contracted meningitis at age 11 and had both forearms and both legs amputated at the knee, hopes to shine in her sport which will also be a memorable debut for the Ugandan swimmer from 14 year old Husnah Kukundakwe .

At the other end of the age spectrum, a trio of equestrian riders – German Heidemarie Dresing (66), Irish Rosemary Gaffney (63) and Norwegian Jens Lasse Dokken (60) – hope to show that years are not a barrier. for Paralympic success.

The eyes of the world will also be on US parathlete Michael Brannigan, who won gold in the 1,500-meter race in Rio; Canadian paracyclist Kate O’Brien, who in 2020 set a new world record in the 500-meter time trial; as well as Norwegian rower Birgit Skarstein, who is the world champion in the PR1 individual competition.

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