Asian Paralympic Committee President’s blog from Tokyo 2020

Asian Paralympic Committee President Majid Rashed has travelled to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and will share his experiences supporting the Asian nations in Japan.

‘Although the Tokyo 2020 Games will be different in so many ways to previous Paralympic Games, I still got the same sense of excitement when my accreditation card arrived as I did for the first Games that I went to in 2004 in Athens. After all the uncertainly it was a very good feeling to know that I was finally going. I’m sure it was the same for all the athletes and officials who have had to overcome the last year’s disappointment of the Games being postponed, then deal with the difficulties of training in lockdown and the lack of competition opportunities.

Throughout the pandemic, the Asian Paralympic Committee kept in touch with our members regularly. We had Zoom calls individually with each NPC to learn how they were coping with the pandemic and to see what support we could offer. We set up a series of Webinars to ensure that the lockdown time was being used to help educate and develop our NPCs to emerge stronger than before. Our Athletes’ Committee carried on with the first ever Asian Athletes’ Forum which was conducted virtually. In some ways the pandemic has made the Asian Paralympic Family feel closer as we have embraced not travelling on planes to meet but used technology to ‘meet’ more often. There is no denying though that I am really looking forward to seeing everyone in person, even if it is behind a mask and with social distancing.

As I write this, I am waiting for the Opening Ceremony having been in quarantine in my hotel room in Tokyo. It was fantastic to arrive and see the Agitos and the friendly volunteers. The Olympic Games showed that, even behind closed doors, it’s still possible to inspire the world and now it’s our turn.

The Opening Ceremony will be later tonight and of course I’m sure that it will be a very exciting and emotional spectacle, but I’m really looking forward to seeing the sport start. I’ll be trying to catch as many performances of athletes from Asian nations as possible and hoping that we can improve on performances in Rio.

There are already some positive signs for the region before the sport has started – there will be more Asian athletes competing here than in Rio and 40% of them are female, compared with 37% in Rio. We will be cheering on athletes from two new NPCs, Bhutan and the Maldives who will be making their Paralympic debut and we will be welcoming back Yemen who will be competing for the first time since 1992.

Of course, these are headline figures and a closer look reveals that there is still much to do in the region. 48% of Asian athletes come from just two countries (China and Japan), 18 Asian NPCs are sending fewer than five athletes and six Asian NPCs will not be competing at all. The pandemic will have affected some of these numbers of course, with the poorer nations being hit very hard. I think it is vital that we focus on closing the gap between the nations where para-sport is established and the ones where it is still in its infancy, because we know what para-sport can do to change the lives of people living with disabilities.

That’s why it’s been great to see the launch of the WeThe15 campaign which aims to transform the lives of the world’s 1.2 billion persons with disabilities who represent 15% of the global population. It makes me very proud that the Paralympic Movement is spearheading this as we know that the Games can have a bigger impact than just medals won. But for the next twelve days, all eyes will be on the sport and the medal tally. I wish all the athletes from around the world, but especially from Asia, all the very best. May you make yourself and your country proud.

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