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“In addition to all of the individual sadness, there was a great sigh of relief among the athletes,” says Friedhelm Julius Beucher, President of the German Disabled Sports Association (DBS). On Monday, the DBS made an appeal to the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) to postpone it. “We have athletes who belong to the risk group,” says Beucher, referring to those athletes who have a weakened immune system. In addition, the same problems had arisen as for the Olympic athletes, but in some cases with particular aggravation. The opportunities to exercise were limited. “With prostheses, you can sprint well on a tartan track, but not in the forest or in the park.” The doping control system has become dysfunctional. “The door to worldwide doping was opened wide.” In the qualification, justice could no longer be achieved. The postponement of the games was “without alternative”. For reasons of justice, but first and foremost to protect health, as the former chairman of the Bundestag Sports Committee emphasizes
However, the position of Beucher and the DBS had suddenly adapted to the realities. The head of the association had expressed clear concerns on Wednesday, but had not yet considered the time to cancel. At the weekend he saw a lot of Phoenix, not as much since his time as a member of parliament, says Beucher. What he heard there, the development of the worldwide corona numbers, the warnings of the virologists that a major sporting event is potentially “the largest virus focus in the world” had changed the situation. “At that moment it was undisputed that it was no longer possible.” In the meantime, prominent athletes had also spoken, for example Kappel, or Denise Schindler. Beucher points out that the DBS positioned itself publicly earlier than other central associations of German sport. But still quite late.
Above all, however, the IPC did not make a communicative U-turn until the IOC decided. The move was “absolutely correct,” President Andrew Parsons wrote to the National Paralympic Committees on Tuesday. “The health and well-being of human life must always be our top priority, and it is simply not possible to hold a sporting event of any kind during this pandemic.” In the past days and weeks, he has always proven to be a reliable co-driver of Thomas Bach. In contrast to the exclusion of Russian athletes before the games in Rio 2016, when Parsons ’predecessor Philip Craven set an example of clean sport that is recognized worldwide, Parsons is on the IOC line. Shot putter Kappel says with regard to the IOC and IPC: “I would have liked to see more transparency and more insight into the entire construction at an earlier point in time.”
However, Parsons also had no real room for maneuver. The Paralympic Summer Games, with 4000 participants the second largest multi-sports event in the world after Olympia, are contractually bound to the IOC, the contracts for the joint staging were extended in March 2018 to 2032, a “historic step” for the IPC – its own host City contracts do not exist, however, and the IPC has only one vote within the IOC. An arbitrary postponement was therefore not possible. For this, the IPC assures that the joint staging at the new time, whenever it will be, is guaranteed: “The games are only available as a couple, so the Paralympics will follow the Olympic Games next year as planned.”
When that will be depends on the IOC. DBS boss Beucher thinks that the games “shouldn’t actually take place in summer” due to climatic reasons. When the event is moved to spring 2021, as apparently favored by the IOC, he already sees scheduling needs in terms of qualifications. “It will be tight, completely clear.”
Beucher’s desired solution would be a further delay until autumn or even the year after next – but he doesn’t believe that himself. “The dictation of money will decide.” Spring 2021 would also be too early for Kappel. Before the games can continue, a vaccine against the virus must be found. “That should be a requirement,” he says. Because: “I don’t think it will go away on its own.”