Why these Paris Paralympics will “change your heart” (and be the best ever)
Juan Antonio Belmar
May 23, 2024

The Brazilian leader Andrew Parsons assumed the presidency of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) in September 2017 at the age of 40, becoming the youngest president since the birth of this movement in the world in 1944 when Ludwig Guttmann, a German physician of Jewish origin, founded a center for spinal cord injuries at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in England. The idea at that time was to provide therapy to the wounded of the Second World War, who had suffered amputations of their limbs and also with severe depression, therefore sport was a good tool to mitigate the physical and mental ailments and a powerful weapon for their rehabilitation.

At the dawn of Andrew Parsons’ presidency, he took up the challenge and from the beginning his line of work was based on modernizing the organization and expanding its radius of action to reach every corner of the planet by supporting local committees, regardless of their size, budget and structure. Then, when he was re-elected in December 2021, he set more ambitious goals: to support national sports federations that were open to having sports with disabilities, but their economic reality is far from developed countries in this area of society. In this way, it generated cooperation programs in different places, seeking to strengthen sustained work over time. And one of the most important milestones in its governance is the signing of an agreement with the International Olympic Committee to draw up a common strategic roadmap until 2032.

Andrew Parsons. (Lafargue Raphael/ABACA/Shutterstock)

A little less than 100 days before the Paralympic Games in Paris, all eyes and all energies have as epicenter the French capital, moreover, the authorities of the organizing committee, such as the IPC analyze daily the progress and problems that the Olympic Games present, because if there is something that plays in favor of the Paralympics is to enter 15 days after the IOC summer games, allowing to solve last minute problems that could not be addressed by the organizers. For Andrew Parsons “this is the first edition of the Summer Games where we will be able to explore our full potential. We had London, which is still considered the benchmark and then Rio, which was difficult for us because of problems in the organization and staging of the competitions. Then Tokyo and the pandemic…”.

A BEFORE AND AFTER IN PARIS FOR THE PARALYMPICS

Paralympic sport has a before and after with the Paris Games, for being the most global in history, for the transformative capacity they have and the legacy they will leave. Andrew Parsons is categorical in his vision of these games “will see the Paralympic Movement at its best in an event that will be the most spectacular of all time. As you watch the Paralympics, you will be electrified by the performances of the athletes, but something will also change in you for the better. Whether you like it or not, every time you are exposed to Paralympic sport for the first time, something changes in your heart.”

Andrew Parsons’ energy has been coming since he was attached from 2009 to 2017 to Brazil’s powerful Paralympic Committee. There he learned firsthand the life stories of young people whose lives were cut short with congenital diseases and serious accidents, but for none of them it was an impediment to face life and literally stand up to prove that a disability however complex it may be, does not limit you from fulfilling your dreams. “Paralympic sport is incredible and allows things you wouldn’t imagine possible, these athletes make it possible. You’ll be amazed, you’ll be thrilled,” Parsons has described on occasion.

From the Paris Paralympics to the last Paralympics in Tokyo 2020+1, they will meet again with the public in the stands. The encouragement of millions of people who are eager to cheer, shout, celebrate a medal and cheer with a clenched heart for the athlete who struggles to cross the finish line, even though he or she is the last in that event, returns. On the same, Andrew Parsons has pointed out that it is time to “focus attention and promotion in terms of ticket sales”. As such, he advised that they have tried to ensure “that attending the Paralympic Games is affordable and that the whole family can attend this unique event in Paris,” while globally they have “secured media rights holders to broadcast the Games in over 160 nations and territories,” making it “the most broadcast globally in terms of the impact,” he noted.

Ntando Mahlangu from South Africa winning gold at the Tokyo Paralympics (Kim Price/CSM/Shutterstock)

Paralympic athletes feel that these Paris Games are the true platform to connect with the world, to raise awareness, to transmit values that are on the verge of extinction, where effort and the ability to overcome adversity are part of their own reality. Paris will host 4,400 athletes and these idols are the ambassadors of more than 1.2 billion people with disabilities on the planet.

Join this Paralympic Movement, expand the frontiers, demolish myths and prejudices, share the life experiences of these Super Heroes, because the time has come for them to be the true and authentic protagonists of the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.

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