The 16th Summer Paralympics will be held from the 25th of August to the 6th of September 2020, and will stage 540 events in 22 sports. The gold standard of international multi-sports competitions for para-athletes is always full of action, usually with a few modifications from past editions.
This year, Tokyo is hosting the games for the second time and they are expected to be opened by the nation’s emperor, Naruhito, himself. If this is the case, the opening ceremony should be a lavish visual feast. Before the ceremony, the torch relay will take place around Japan, lighting fires in various prefectures and finishing up at the New National Stadium, to add more excitement to the occasion.
From an athletic point of view, however, the most interesting aspect of the Paralympics are that 2 sports will be removed from the roster, and replaced by 2 new disciplines. The International Paralympic Committee announced these on the 31st of January 2015, after the customary bidding period.
Sailing and 7-a-Side Football Are Being Removed
The dropping of sailing events surprised many people in the parasports community especially when International Paralympic Committee President Sir Philip Craven explained the reason why. Sailing does not meet the Committee Handbook’s minimum criteria for global reach, Sir Craven said.
The Royal Yachting Association expressed its disappointment, and sailing’s governing body was quick to declare that every effort will be to reinstate the sport at future Paralympics. At this time, sadly, they have not succeeded, and the sport will not be featured at the 2024 games in Paris.
Sir Craven supplied the same reason for 7-a-Side Football being cut; the minimum worldwide reach criteria weren’t met. There was similar outcry to this news too, with The Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association saying it was “a black day” when the announcement was made.
Taekwondo and Badminton are Being Added
Taekwondo and Badminton para-athletes are just as pleased as their 7-a-Side Football and Sailing counterparts are disappointed, because their sports have been added to the Summer Paralympics schedule. In fact, they are probably as excited as lucky online casino Philippines jackpot winners are.
The Taekwondo fights will be staged at the Makuhari Messe, a convention centre that will also host the Paralympic Volleyball, Wheelchair Fencing and Goalball events. Badminton’s Paralympic debut will be at the Yoyogi National Stadium, where Wheelchair Rugby matches will also take place.
Para-Badminton players expressed mixed views when they trialled the stadium; some were excited and said they loved the space while others felt that it was too large and noisy. For his part Chungwon Choue, the World Taekwondo President, said he was convinced that the parasport would be very successful in the international competition.
Whatever happens during the Taekwondo fights and Badminton games, both communities of para-athletes recognise the historic important of their sports premiering at the Paralympics. Since both sports are being included for the first time, the athletes who win will always have the distinction of being the first Paralympian medallists in these disciplines – making a little history themselves.