Paralympics – Paris 2024 could be the best Games ever, says committee chief

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons

PARIS (Reuters) — While accessibility to all is unrealistic for 2024, the Paris Paralympic Games have the potential to be the best ever and serve as a catalyst for global change, the head of the International Paralympic Committee said on Saturday.

Andrew Parsons, visiting Paris for the first Paralympic day two years ahead of the Games on a sunbathed place de la Bastille, where thousands attended and experienced wheelchair fencing among other paralympic sports, told Reuters he is hoping Paris 2024 will help society to be more inclusive.

“One of the things that it’s important to mention is that we don’t expect issues of hundreds of years to be fixed with the Paralympic Games. The Paralympic Games are a catalyst,” he said.

“We don’t expect public transportation to be 100% accessible, this is unrealistic to think otherwise.”

Only 3% of the Paris metro stations are accessible to persons with disabilities, although the City has promised that the biggest hubs would be by the time the Paralympics start on Aug. 28, 2024.

“What we do want is to push accessibility and put some light into the needs of it. So that there’s still be improvements when it comes to accessibility for the city and for the country. Not for the Games, but one, two, three, four years after the Games. That’s the opportunity,” said Parsons, who is hoping the Games will spur a shift in mentalities.

“After the Games then it’s up to society to keep pushing for inclusion. This is the catalyst. This is a moment that we put those questions to the French society, not only French government, but the French society.”

The London Paralympics in 2012 were a huge success and Parsons has no doubt Paris will do even better as “the Paralympic movement has grown since London”.

“London was obviously an event that brought the Paralympic movement to the next level but Rio was also a very good Games when it comes to the impact on the people around the world and most probably Tokyo if it was not for the pandemic would probably have been the best Games ever,” he explained.

“So it was absolutely incredible Games without spectators we know. So I think we are on a good path, where we are getting better and better and the Games are impacting more people around the world. And Paris will be another step in that direction. It has the potential to the greatest (Paralympic) Games ever.”