The president of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), the Brazilian Andrew Parsons, recognizes that the Tokyo Games may generate “great anger” among the Japanese population because of the covid-19 pandemic, but he described as “negligible” the risks of spreading the virus among athletes.
In an interview with AFP, Parsons assures that there will be no relaxation of sanitary measures and that this will make it possible to preserve the safety of the athletes and the Japanese public.
Parsons made his statements just over 100 days before the opening of the Paralympic Games (August 24-September 5) and ten weeks before the opening of the Olympic Games (July 23-August 8).
While this global event is approaching by leaps and bounds, Japan is experiencing a fourth wave of infections with concern and the country’s public opinion remains largely against holding the Games, which have already been delayed from 2020 to 2021 because of the pandemic.
“We understand the feeling of uncertainty,” Parsons said from Brazil. “In a normal time, when there is uncertainty, there is fear and sometimes fear turns into great anger.”
But Parsons stressed that the health measures planned for the athletes, which include numerous tests prior to their arrival in Japan and then daily tests on site, limit the risks until they are “really minuscule.”
“We want to instill a sense of security because we see that there is a lot of anger with this idea that puts the safety of the Japanese population and the Games in opposition. I think they can coexist,” he said.
Health and safety as a priority
Without it being a mandatory condition for participation, numerous athletes from around the world have been vaccinated to be more protected at the Olympics. Parsons predicts it will also be a trend at the Paralympics, with at least 60% of participants.
“The last thing we want to do in putting a strain on the Japanese health system right now,” he said, appealing for “innovative solutions” to avoid adding pressure.
“The number one priority is the health and safety of everyone at the Games. I don’t think we can ease restrictions,” he added.
The Tokyo Olympics will not be able to have spectators from outside Japan. The decision on whether or not to allow spectators from Japan will be announced in principle in June.
Regardless of the number of spectators, Parsons considers this year’s Paralympics to be “the most important in history.”
“Disabled people have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, which has highlighted many inequalities,” he recalled.
“Athletes understand that what they do on the field of play will help put disabled people back on the inclusion agenda,” he sentenced.