THE rearranged Tokyo Paralympics could go ahead next year even if a vaccine has not been found beforehand.
And athletes have been assured that their experience will in no way be changed or lessened, despite the cost-cutting measures that the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has already been forced to implement because of the Covid-19 enforced delay.
In a Zoom call with Paralympics Ireland yesterday, IPC President Andrew Parsons said: “Obviously a vaccine would be the ultimate solution, the silver-bullet. We could have several vaccines by next July as the greatest minds in the world are working on it.
“But we may be able to control the pandemic without a vaccine,” he added.
“It depends a lot on where we are next year. If the measures countries are taking to control the virus have a positive effect, if we have different ways to test or treat the virus, those will also affect our ability to have the Games. We need to be able to control the virus, that is the key.”
He stressed that the Paralympics will not go ahead if there is any danger to the health of the athletes and teams and admitted that “the situation needs to improve.”
The enforced 12-month postponement has already seen the IPC incur substantial financial losses through delayed revenue streams like TV and advertising.
Parsons revealed that the IPC has already found more than 200 ways to cut costs but he stressed that these are all in operational and logistical areas that will not affect the protagonists.
“Athletes do not need to be afraid. We will not touch the athletes’ experience,” he said.
“We are not reducing the numbers of sports or athletes or events. We are not combining events or deleting events, or any sports. In terms of size and participation, accommodation and food, the athletes’ experience will be exactly the same.”
He believes para-athletes are not at any greater risk of getting the virus, even though athletes with disabilities sometimes also have some impaired physical functions.
“Research so far indicates that the likelihood of someone with a disability contracting the virus is no greater than someone who doesn’t,” Parsons said.
“But once they contract the virus the effect, depending on their disability, could be more severe and then we may have to put extra medical provisions in place.”
He said no date or deadline for a final decision about Tokyo 2021 has been set by the international Olympic and Paralympic federations because the situation is constantly changing.
Apart from health concerns both face the problem of fitting in re-arranged qualification tournaments and the IPC has an additional complication of also having to find time for its unique ‘classification’ system.
“Qualification and classification are our two moving targets. We have several different plans for these, depending on when international competition can start again. It may stretch our capacity and financial resources but we can’t have the Paralympic Games without athletes being classified,” Parsons said.