Earlier this year, the IPC Athletes’ Council, with the full support of the IPC Governing Board, launched a consultation exercise with the Para athlete community to gather a better understanding on ways athletes from all nations could express their views on key subjects at the Paralympic Games, while respecting the Paralympic Movement’s values and principles.
Ten workshops took place between October and November with athletes representing 74 National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) and 27 sports participating. From an IPC Athletes’ Council viewpoint, it was vital to gather the diverse views from a full cross-section of the Paralympic Movement in order to recognise the challenges, issues and views of athletes that differ from country to country.
As part of the consultation, athletes were provided with the background and rationale of the current rule and the ways in which the rule actually allows athletes to express their views during the Games. Athletes were also given examples of the many challenges that could arise, should restrictions on protests be removed without careful consideration of many important factors that come with a global movement. At the centre of these discussions was the shared desire to not overshadow athletes’ sporting achievements and to not bring the Games, their respective sports and NPCs, nor themselves into disrepute.
From these discussions, we learned that the strong majority of athletes were unaware of the freedoms the current rule allows, how it functions to protect athletes from outside influences and how it works to ensure the main focal point of the Games is sport and the amazing athlete accomplishments.
On Wednesday (9 December), I updated the Governing Board on the main outcomes of these consultation workshops. I informed them that the majority of Paralympians and Para athletes would welcome an opportunity to express themselves during the Games but in a manner that still requires such expressions remain outside the field of play, podium and ceremonies. Athletes were very clear that they want Tokyo 2020 and future Games to be remembered for sporting achievements more than anything else.
The Governing Board was receptive to this feedback and, on behalf of the athlete community, I’d like to thank them for their continued engagement and support regarding this matter.
The next steps for the IPC Athletes’ Council will be to conduct a follow-up survey with the global athlete community so that we can continue gathering their views. Of course, we are aware of the 10 December statement by the Team USA Council of Racial and Social Justice, and will include this statement with all the views of athletes provided by each of the 186 NPCs within the Paralympic Movement.
By late February 2021, we will present to the Governing Board our final recommendations, which we hope will provide a solution that works for athletes of all nations and protects the values and integrity of the Games.
Chairperson, IPC Athletes’ Council