The Paralympic Games Will Open With Empty Tribunes But A Bigger Stage


TOKYO — A Paralympic swimmer trains for a while in the cold Arkansas River after the coronavirus pandemic cut off her access to the pool.

Another borrowed a swimming bench, installed it in his garage in Minnesota, and simulated his strokes against the resistance of a pulley system. This was the closest he came to moving through the water.

And in Cardiff, Wales, a shot put champion improvised by pulling a cargo net between apple and pear trees so he could train safely in the garden of his new home.

Months later, these three athletes — Sofia Herzog, Mallory Weggemann and Aled Sion Davies – Nearly 4,400 competitors took part in Tokyo for the 16th Summer Paralympic Games, which will start on Tuesday. Like the thousands of Olympians who competed here weeks ago, the Paralympics will be heading to the fields, courts and courses a year late, without spectators and under the threat of a contagion that has darkened many other big stars, at least according to the television ratings. sporting events in the last year and a half.

Yet the Paralympics may be the rare athletic spectacle that reached significantly higher participation levels during the pandemic and accelerated its momentum in a way that old guard sports could not. The unrest created by multiple curfews, combined with the cultural democratization shaped by social media, has strengthened the shift in values ​​and tastes that highlight the overlooked and underestimated, especially among young people.

US wheelchair basketball player Darlene Hunter, who teaches disability issues at the University of Texas at Arlington, said that in the five years since the last Summer Paralympic Games held in Rio de Janeiro, there has been an increased interest in the sport. Games and understanding them better. In the past, he had to routinely explain what the Paralympic Games and his team’s 2016 gold medal meant.

“People now know what’s going on,” Hunter said as they prepared to leave for their third Games. “People are talking about it. People are hearing it like never before.”

Significant changes over the past five years include prize money parity for U.S. Paralympic medalists, who receive one-fifth of what their Olympic counterparts earn ($37,500 for gold, $22,500 for silver, and $15,000 for bronze), and expansion of coverage by television and streaming services. This accessibility was facilitated to some extent by the International Paralympic Committee’s decision to waive rights fees in dozens of countries in sub-Saharan Africa and help build coverage for broadcasters there.

NBCUniversal, the longtime Olympic and Paralympic network in the United States, has committed to broadcast 1,200 hours on television channels and streaming platforms, after delivering just 70 hours from Brazil in 2016 and five and a half hours from the London Games in 2012. The first prime-time broadcast of the Paralympics on the main NBC channel will include four hours spread across three major shows.

The US Olympic Committee became the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

“We’re Here,” Jessica Long, A swimmer who has won 13 gold medals and will compete in her fifth Paralympics, He told The New York Times When the name change was announced in 2019.

Still, the resources for Paralympic Athletes, from news media coverage to sponsorship deals, don’t come close to what the Olympians have. The huge main press center in Tokyo is a desert these days, and online searches for Paralympic news mostly yield news bulletins from the Games’ organizers. And while prize money was equalized for American athletes, some benefits were not.

When spectators were barred from entering Tokyo, the USOPC held viewing parties in the state for two relatives or friends per athlete. There were four Olympic meetings, each spanning five days, but only one was scheduled for the Paralympic Games. Some Paralympic athletes and their family members said that after noticing this discrepancy, a second viewing party was added.

The standard that the Tokyo Paralympics must exceed will be the London Paralympics in 2012. Athletes, with packed, knowledgeable crowds to this day and, in part, adaptive sports and often cheeky coverage from Channel 4, which BBC has left behind For contest rights.

On the last day of the London Olympics, likely the main attraction that summer, channel 4 Put up billboards around the city to promote the Paralympic Games. “Thanks for the warm up,” they said.

At that time, disabled people made up about 50 percent of the channel’s broadcast team. For the Tokyo Games, Channel 4’s rate is estimated at just over 70 percent.

“They’ve revolutionized British television,” said Craig Spence, head of communications for the International Paralympic Committee. “Before this issue of London 2012, we didn’t really see people with disabilities on TV shows or hosting current affairs programmes. Now you can. All the other publishers in Great Britain understood that they were up to something.”

Such acceptance has not always been a part of Paralympic history, at least when the Soviet Union refused to host a Paralympic Games at the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics. country. Paralympic Games moved to the Netherlands that year. Now there’s an award-winning movie about them.

soaring phoenix”, a Netflix documentary focusing on the nine 2016 Paralympic athletes, was produced by Greg Nugent, marketing director of the London Paralympics, and six-time US Paralympic athlete Tatyana McFadden, who is also one of the film’s stars.

Nugent said he made the film partly in hopes of making the Paralympics indispensable, not as an event that might succeed in one city but falter in the next four years later.

“I wanted to make it morally impossible for any future organizing committee to basically make a decision that Paras would be less than the Olympics,” he said.

His concern was confirmed as the 2016 Games approached. As political and economic turmoil swept Brazil, the organizers in Rio thought only of holding the Olympics. A bailout from the government allowed the Paralympic Games to continue, but only 12 percent of tickets had been sold three weeks before the Games.

McFadden and Nugent launched a Fill Seats campaign to purchase Paralympic tickets for Brazilian schoolchildren, with promotional and financial assistance from Prince Harry and the Coldplay band. Finally, the Rio audience arrived, the Brazilians won 14 gold medals and the movie won two Sports Emmys.

The Tokyo Paralympic Games will start under a very different cloud, and also under a new umbrella.

On Thursday night, just days before the opening ceremony, more than 125 landmarks around the world Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo and empire state building In New York – they’ve long been bathed in purple, representing the disability community. The demonstration signaled the start of a 10-year anti-discrimination campaign to be run by multiple organisations, including the International Paralympic Committee.

The campaign, called WeThe15, which refers to the fact that an estimated 15 percent of the global population has some form of disruption, has formed a coalition of groups, often with very different agendas.

“We’ve seen other movements like LBGTQ, Black Lives Matter, the #MeToo movement,” IPC chief Andrew Parsons told The Associated Press last week, adding that “we need a similar movement for people with disabilities.”


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