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Athletes: have your say on protests at the Paralympics

Date: August 14, 2020

Category: Football

The International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) Athletes’ Council has launched an online portal for Para athletes to register and take part in a consultation exercise to gather a better understanding on ways Para athletes could express their views on key subjects at the Paralympic Games, while respecting the Paralympic Movement’s values and principles.

Para athletes can register online until 24 August 2020 for September’s focus groups which will be led by the IPC Athletes’ Council and held in English, Spanish and French. Exact dates and times will be communicated in early September following the sign-up process.

In July, the IPC Athletes’ Council announced that following discussions and support from the IPC Governing Board, it would host a series of focus groups which would have a dual purpose. Firstly, it will provide the Para athlete community with a better understanding about the current rules, including what is and what is not allowed by athletes, and why the rules are in place. The second purpose is to gather first-hand the ideas and thoughts of Para athletes and how they could make their voices heard at the Paralympic Games.

Under current IPC rules for the Paralympic Games, Para athletes are free to share their views on any subject they wish on their own social media channels and when speaking to media. However, they are not allowed to use the field of play or podium to protest.

Chelsey Gotell, Chairperson of the IPC Athletes’ Council, said: “We encourage as many Para athletes as possible to sign-up to these focus groups. They are a fantastic opportunity for Para athletes to understand more about the current rules, share what subjects they feel passionately about, and give a viewpoint on how they believe these subjects could be best communicated at the Paralympic Games.

“With 12 months to go until Tokyo 2020, time is on our side and the IPC Athletes’ Council will be spending September gathering views of the global athlete community. We will then draft a proposal to present to the IPC who fully understand the importance of this exercise and are being fully supportive.

“We all know that athlete protests at the Games is something of a Pandora’s box. The last thing we want to do is create a free-for-all at the Games where Para athletes are free to protest on any subject they like, including ones the wider world will find repulsive as this will overshadow the sporting performances. Our aim is to strike a fine balance whereby Para athletes can raise their views in a constructive way rather than use the Games as a platform to spread hate.”

IPC President Andrew Parsons added: “The whole IPC Governing Board is looking forward to hear what the Para athlete community has to say during these focus groups. We want to listen and learn before working with the IPC Athletes’ Council to shape what appropriate changes may be needed for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.”

All discussions and key points from all the Para athlete focus groups will be published on the IPC Athletes’ Council’s digital media channels. 

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