Ukrainians performed well at Beijing Paralympics, but without smiles

These will be remembered as the Paralympics in which the ideal of seeking world peace through sports was disparaged. The Beijing Winter Paralympics have come to a close.

Due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, para-athletes from Russia and Belarus, which supports Russia, were not allowed to participate in the Games. This is an unfortunate result of Russia’s heinous actions.

On the other hand, Ukrainian para-athletes, whose participation was at one point in jeopardy, left their families in their home country, which was under continuous bombardment, and arrived in Beijing where they dominated the podium in the men’s and women’s biathlon events.

However, a Ukrainian athlete said at the awards ceremony: “I am not happy even if I win a gold medal. I want the war to stop.” The weight of these words is overwhelming.

During the Games, attacks on Ukraine continued to intensify, and an athlete whose father was detained by the Russian military and another whose home was destroyed suffered mental distress and had to withdraw from some events.

The origin of the Paralympics was to rehabilitate soldiers wounded in war. At the root of the event is a strong desire for peace.

Anger that such a desire was trampled upon by Russia’s military actions cannot be hidden. Russia should listen to the heart-wrenching voices of the athletes calling for an end to the invasion.

At the opening ceremony, part of the speech by International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons, who appealed for peace, was not simultaneously interpreted in the live broadcast on China Central Television, and the volume was turned down. The word “peace” at the end of his speech was also not translated.

China has avoided criticizing the invasion. It would be outrageous if it were attempting to prevent condemnation of Russia from spreading. As the host country, China bears a heavy responsibility for turning the “festival of peace” into a highly politicized event.

Despite the gloomy atmosphere, the Japanese athletes performed well. Alpine skier Momoka Muraoka overcame the pressure of being the captain of the Japanese delegation and won four medals, including three golds.

Cross-country skier Taiki Kawayoke became the youngest male Japanese athlete to win a Winter Paralympic gold medal. Taiki Morii, a male Alpine skier who collected two bronze medals, skied aggressively and performed well.

The efforts of the Games athletes, who have faced many restrictions due to the novel coronavirus, must be commended. Their efforts will surely lead to the development of young athletes who will lead the future.

The 2030 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, for which Sapporo is bidding to be the host city, will possibly be decided by the end of this year. The city needs to carefully examine the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games and carefully explain to residents the significance of hosting the events.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on March 13, 2022.