Exclusive: Beijing Winter Paralympics 'same impressive, splendid and safe' event as Winter Games: IPC chief
With high level of accessibility, China capable of holding other intl sports events for athletes with disabilities
Published: Mar 01, 2022 10:06 PM
International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons Photo: AFP

International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons Photo: AFP

As the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympic Games will take place in three days, International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Andrew Parsons told the Global Times in an exclusive interview that he expected the same high level of the Games as was seen in the Winter Olympics Games, which were impressive, splendid and safe, and the level of accessibility will remain high, given many efforts that China has made in past years on this aspect. 

Parsons, who participated in the Summer Olympic Games in 2008 in Beijing as an athlete of the Brazilian delegation, said China has progressed a lot when it comes to accessibility. 

"We know that in the last few years, 300,000 facilities became barrier-free," he said, noting that it shows that China is not only facing the challenge of organizing the Games but also taking the opportunities around the Games to make China a more accessible country, including for disable people, and for different activities. 

With just three days to go until the start of the Paralympic Winter Games, the competition venues, transportation systems, Paralympic Villages and medical services are speeding up the transition from the Winter Olympics for a streamlined, safe and green Winter Paralympics, reports said.

"When it comes to specific venues for the Games, all of them are very accessible," the chairman of the IPC said. The IPC also has been developing facilities for the event with the organizing committee throughout the years, and the chairman said "We are happy with the level of accessibility, we know we're providing a barrier-free environment for our athletes." 

The IPC team worked on the ground during the Winter Olympics to see the venues in operation and to determine if there were any gaps, which allowed for a lot of progress. 

"When it comes to accessibility, we could not be happier with China and with the organizers," he said. 

Shortly after the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics came to a successful conclusion, Beijing began to switch its facilities and venues from the Winter Olympic Games to the Paralympic Winter Games.

The transformation work in the Olympic Villages was expected to finish within 44 hours, with the facilities and venues equipped with technology-powered barrier-free designs, highlighting humane, warm and considerable care, the Global Times learned from some Olympic Villages and the venues' staffers. 

As the IPC chairman and also IOC member, Parsons has witnessed a changing China and Beijing as the world's first city to hold both Olympics. "In terms of the Paralympics, Beijing 2008 really changed the level, the way the Summer Games were delivered," he said, noting that we hope they will see such a huge jump with the Winter Paralympics now in 2022.

He said that the legacy Beijing left for the Paralympics as a whole was huge, as the Games "are bigger, more professional, more spectacular, and more relevant than ever before." 

Compared with 2008 when China was opening up as a nation to the world, now the country is a superpower and very influential in every aspect, Parsons said. "It's more like a modern country with a new generation of people already connected to the world. 

"I think it helped to change the way the Chinese people perceive people with disabilities," Parsons said, noting that now, the world will see China being a very strong country also on the winter side of the Paralympics Games. 

In January, some media reported that Parsons tested positive for COVID-19 and could not travel to Beijing for the Winter Paralympic Games. Now he's recovered and praised the city's closed-loop management, which was showed as effective during the Winter Olympics. As he talked with the Global Times via a video link on Monday night, he was still in quarantine and he said that athletes coming to Beijing know the anti-epidemic measures would be strict, but they know "it's going to be safe." 

"This will allow them to focus only on training and competing… This is probably the safest place on Earth at this moment in time, and everyone would like to be here because of that as well," Parsons said. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic has not ended and many countries are still struggling in dealing with its aftermath, the Games are always inspiring, the chairman said, expecting that they will also send a strong message of inclusion and a strong message that a person with a disability can do whatever they want if given the opportunity. 

"I think this is what we want to achieve with the Games that change perceptions, not only in China and not only in Beijing, but that what happens here in Beijing in the field of play also influences change around the world in every single country around the world," Parsons said. 

With the Winter Paralympic Games expected to inspire more athletes with disabilities to practice sports, Parsons said he thinks China has all the conditions and experience to deliver any international sports event, including those for athletes with disabilities.