New International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons on Thursday declared himself “generally very happy” with preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, and believes “everything is coming together” to make the event a success.
“Generally we are very happy with the progress made and the way that the preparations are being handled by the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the national government,” Parsons said in Tokyo at the start of a two-day review of preparations, his first since taking over as IPC president last month.
“I think we have a very good combination of efforts. How they are placing the Paralympic Games on the same level as the Olympic Games, and thinking of the two games coming together, complementing each other, is very reassuring. When you have the two games together, they are really stronger.”
The Brazilian Parsons was elected IPC president at the organization’s general assembly in the United Arab Emirates last month. He replaced Briton Philip Craven, who stepped down after 16 years in the job.
Parsons is already familiar with the Tokyo 2020 project, having served on the Evaluation Commission for the 2020 bidding process and also serving as a member of the International Olympic Committee’s Tokyo 2020 Coordination Commission.
“It’s difficult to say that one single aspect is responsible for the overall success of the games, but I think it’s a combination of good promotion in the lead-up to the games, delivery of the services to national Paralympic committees, and engagement from Japanese society,” said the 40-year-old.
“And that’s what we have seen here. We are perceiving that everything is coming together. We have a lot of support coming from the different levels of government, from the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee and also Japanese society. And we have a very strong Japanese Paralympic Committee here. So we know that Japanese society will cheer, will be inspired by amazing athletes from all over the world, but also they have a very strong team to support.”
Parsons became only the third president to lead the IPC after beating Canada’s Patrick Jarvis, Denmark’s John Petersson and China’s Zhang Haidi in the Sept. 8 vote.
His suitability for the job has been questioned due to the fact that he has no disability, but on Thursday he launched an impassioned defense of his credentials.
“They are wrong,” he said. “I don’t have to have an impairment to serve the athletes with an impairment. I have been involved with the movement for more than 20 years now.
“I have a very, very close relationships with the athletes, so I think I understand their expectations, their demands. As I have done in my country, I am sure I will be able to deliver what they expect and what they want from the president of an international organization such as the IPC.”
Former President Craven, also in Tokyo for the project review, threw his weight firmly behind Parsons’ presidency.
“Disability isn’t the key word in the Paralympic movement,” said Craven, a Paralympic gold medal-winning former wheelchair basketball player. “It’s ability, it’s sporting spirit, and it’s experience and a track record.
“We’ve had the experience, we’ve got the track record, and that’s why he is the No. 1 pick and the best possible president that the IPC could have going forward.”
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