THE INTERNATIONAL PARALYMPIC COMMITTEE: TRANSFORMING THE WORLD THROUGH PARA SPORT
As the eyes of the world were on March’s PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in South Korea, one Bonn-based organisation was working tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure its success. Since 1999, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has been based in Bonn and today employs more than 100 people. The city has a true international atmosphere, which suits the IPC, as a majority of the Bonn-based staff come from across the world. Just as their work involves interacting with various people and cultures, the staff can live that out socially by meeting other internationals in the city. Also, Bonn is surrounded by beautiful nature and is central to other nearby cities and towns, allowing for opportunities to disconnect when needed.
As the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement, the IPC aspires to make for a more inclusive society through Para sport. Every four years it oversees the organisation of the Paralympic Games and acts as the International Federation for 10 sports organising World and regional Championships for athletes with an impairment. Through working with is 202 global members, the IPC has grown the Paralympic Games into the world’s third biggest sporting event attracting millions of spectators and billions of TV viewers around the globe. Today, only the Olympics and FIFA World Cup are bigger events, while the Paralympic Games is now widely regarded as the world’s number one sport event for driving social inclusion.
Brazilian Andrew Parsons is the IPC President, who was elected for a four-year term in September 2017. The editors of Bonn’s International Newsletter spoke to him about the IPC’s achievements and mission.
Andrew, what is the most important goal the IPC has achieved since coming into existence?
I think the growth of the IPC since it was founded in 1989 in Dusseldorf has been extraordinary. What started out as a volunteer-based organisation now employs more than 100 people in Bonn who organise some of the world’s biggest sport events. However, what is most pleasing is that over the last 29 years the perception of the IPC has transformed from a disability organisation to a leading global sports organisation. We now have a strong worldwide reputation for good governance and a track record for organising major sport events that really do transform the world, in terms of transforming cities, societies and peoples’ lives.
What is the greatest achievement an athlete has performed in the Paralympics?
I think all performances at the Paralympic Games are exceptional as each athlete comes from a different background. Over the years Paralympic sport has developed into high performance sport and athletes are now achieving feats that people could only have imagined previously.
Although it was not at a Paralympic Games, the long jump world record of 8.40m set by Germany’s Markus Rehm at the 2015 World Para Athletics Championships really does stand out. Markus is a lower leg amputee but his world record would have been good enough to win him gold at the last three Olympic Games.
I also recall at the Rio 2016 Paralympics, the top three finishers in the men’s 1,500m T13 race for visually impaired athletes all finishing in times faster than the Rio Olympic gold medallist in the same event.
And what is your vision for the future?
My vision for the future is to make the IPC an organisation for all by developing pathways, and providing the tools for our 202 member organisations to develop further.
I want to continue the growth of the Paralympic Games, and this will be helped through our new long-term partnership with the IOC, but we must improve the world’s understanding of what our Games deliver. Hosting a Paralympics leads to massive changes in a host city: new accessible infrastructure is created, the performances of Para athletes transform attitudes towards disability, and the Games empower people to get active and take up sport. Few other sport events can achieve this.
Ultimately, I want to unlock the Paralympic Movement’s untapped development and commercial potential.
By delivering in these areas, the IPC will continue to deliver its vision to enable Para athletes to achieve sporting excellence and inspire and excite the world.