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Paralympics 2020 || The Games Of The Rich

It continues in Tokyo. After the Olympic Games, which were extremely unpopular because they were held despite the sharp rise in the number of infections, the Paralympics will begin in the Japanese capital on Tuesday . The same reservations apply to them in terms of health policy. On the sociopolitical level, however, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), the Paralympic counterpart to the IOC, is once again satisfied with itself. Because sport is growing worldwide.

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If positive corona tests do not prevent too much when entering Japan, around 4,400 athletes will take part in the Tokyo Games . Despite the adverse circumstances, that would be around 200 more than in 2016 in Rio, where the last high was reached. 162 member countries send athletes, which means that Tokyo remains slightly below the previous record of 164 in London. However, athletes from 168 countries had qualified, which would have been a new record, only because of the quarantine rules when passing through on the way to Tokyo, some countries had to cancel their participation again.

All in all, "Tokyo 2020", as the Paralympics will continue to call themselves after the one-year pandemic-related postponement, can be seen as another record edition of the largest sporting event for people with disabilities in the world. However, the corona-related cancellations already show that the Paralympics are still not really global. "It is mainly smaller countries from Oceania that have canceled," says Craig Spence, spokesman for the IPC. "For the trip to Japan they would have had to fly via Australia, where they would have expected a two-week quarantine on the way there and back. Unfortunately, the countries with small delegations such as Vanuatu or Fiji could not afford that."

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In addition, seven national member organizations have been excluded from the Games, particularly because they have not paid their membership fees. In the case of the IPC, this is mainly due to the fact that these countries have not sent any athletes to tournaments lately anyway. According to the IPC, a total of 25 countries that actually have National Paralympic Committees are not represented in Tokyo. "It is true that this mainly affects poorer countries," says Craig Spence.

But not only the sheer number of participants reveals a gap between rich and poor that is even greater than at the Olympic Games . This is also documented by the successes in the competitions. In addition to China, which already has an advantage due to its large population of 1.4 billion people, the ten strongest nations in the historical medal ranking are exclusively western affluent societies. They are also the ones who send the largest delegations. In terms of their living standards, post-socialist countries such as Poland, Ukraine and Uzbekistan also do well. But they do not come close to the successes of richer countries.

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The most important reason for this is obvious: the poorer a country is, the more it is a luxury to be able to do sports at all. The success of countries at the Paralympic Games is therefore a clear indicator of the extent to which a society integrates people with disabilities into everyday life. However, goodwill is nowhere near enough. Often there is simply a lack of money.

While there are at least some competitions such as boxing or weightlifting in the Olympic Games, in which material and equipment play a minor role and which produce a relatively colorful picture of Olympic champions , this is more difficult at the Paralympics. The athletes there are dependent on aids. A sports wheelchair costs several thousand euros, and sports prostheses are also unaffordable in many countries. So while the richest nations are traveling with materials developed by NASA or rich companies, women athletes from poorer countries often only get inferior pieces.

The IPC understood this problem. Barely a week before the Tokyo Games, which start on August 24, it launched the WeThe15 campaign, which aims to help poor countries establish and strengthen structures. In addition to the IPC, the United Nations, the NGO International Disability Alliance and more than ten other organizations are participating in the project. The name suggests the 15 percent of the world's population, around 1.2 billion people, who live with a disability. For them, the campaign wants to negotiate with national governments, among other things, to make sports equipment more cheaply available.

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How effective it will be in the end does not only depend on the money. In many countries, where the level of education is lower in addition to prosperity, people with disabilities are also more socially excluded. This, in turn, should change through the Paralympics themselves, which ultimately see themselves as a huge PR campaign for people with a disability. The organizers of "Tokyo 2020" expect another record for global audience ratings. 4.25 billion viewers worldwide are expected.

"The games will be broadcast in 150 to 160 countries. For the first time they will also be broadcast in 40 countries in sub-Saharan Africa," said Craig Spence. This will inspire a new generation to do sports. Because this is the most important legacy of Paralympic Games: "Many viewers with a disability see people who are just like themselves on television for the first time. Except that they do sports. I hear such anecdotes again and again."

Paradoxically, the pandemic could also help make the Paralympics a success: As everyday life is severely restricted in many parts of the world, more people are often sitting in front of the television. However, this time too, they will mainly see medal winners from rich countries.

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