BEIJING, May 16 (Xinhua) -- May 16 is the 31st National Disability Day in China, and also marks the 100-day countdown until the start of the Tokyo Paralympic Games.
On this day, International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Andrew Parsons told Xinhua of his confidence in how Beijing will change the way that the Paralympic Winter Games is delivered, and how Tokyo will host the Paralympics as scheduled.
"I think it's a nice coincidence that the 100 days to go is the same day as National Disability Day in China," said Parsons, who participated with the Brazilian delegation at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing. "I think what we experienced in Beijing 2008 was exactly what we want to translate to the whole world, to change the view of societies towards persons with disability and change the mindset."
"My words for Chinese disabled people are to celebrate May 16 and to celebrate the Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing next year," the IPC president added. "Because I'm sure, if Beijing has changed the way we deliver the Paralympic Summer Games, Beijing 2022 will change the way we deliver the Paralympic Winter Games."
With two months of testing and analyzing all possible scenarios to Olympic and Paralympic standard, the "Experience Beijing" snow and ice sports testing program concluded one month ago, and Parsons spoke of the strides Beijing has made in terms of accessibility.
"In Beijing 2008, we saw a great change in China when it comes to making the city and the country more accessible to persons with disabilities," said Parsons. "More resources were invested for the 2008 Games. So we expect the same now, or a newer version of that same investment and same effort for the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games."
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said earlier that he had never put the Olympics first when asked whether the Tokyo Olympics will go head if the COVID-19 situation worsens, and said the IOC has the final say. Parsons, however, indicated that he is "reassured about his words."
"Of course it's about protecting the Japanese people. But I'm sure he also thinks that we can continue the preparations with the Games. So, it's about putting people first, but also preparing for the Olympics and Paralympics at the same time."
Parsons also mentioned how the playbook for press released by the end of April has become stricter and more detailed.
"I think the playbooks are fundamental strategy to offer a safe Games, because then all the stakeholders will know the guidelines, how they can behave, what they can and cannot do. So, it's important that we have the different populations really prepared and are aware of the limits and restrictions that they have in order to offer a safe and healthy environment for everyone attending the Games."
Parsons emphasized the importance of hosting the Games amid the pandemic, calling Tokyo "the most important edition of the Paralympic games in the history of the Paralympic movement."
"Persons with disability have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. And this has highlighted inequality around the world in how societies treat persons with disability," said Parsons. "The Paralympic Games is the only global event where we celebrate disability and persons with disability."
"I would like to reassure the Paralympic athletes of the world that we are doing our utmost to provide the best infrastructure and the best possible Games. So we want them to focus on their preparations and understand that everything will be very similar to what they are used to."
"Enjoy being [in] Tokyo, enjoying being at the Games," Parsons said directly to the Paralympic athletes. "I apologize for the restrictions that will be there. But you also have the opportunity to compete at your highest level and to change the world with what you do in the field of play."