Para sports: Inaugural Youth Paralympic Games at least six years away, says IPC chief Parsons

International Paralympic Committee president Andrew Parsons speaks at a dialogue session at BP's Singapore office on April 25, 2018.
International Paralympic Committee president Andrew Parsons speaks at a dialogue session at BP's Singapore office on April 25, 2018.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - An inaugural Youth Paralympic Games (YPG) could take place as early as 2024, if all goes well.

But, for that to happen, the 200 members of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) will first have to decide whether it is in the organisation's interests to organise one, before delving into issues such as structure of the Games, costs and how to fit the Games into the competition calendar, IPC president Andrew Parsons told The Straits Times on Wednesday (April 25).

"We have to look at the needs and the interests of our members, and if it makes sense (to organise a youth Games)," the 41-year-old Brazilian said, on the sidelines of a dialogue session at British oil and gas company BP's Singapore office in the financial district.

The former Brazilian Paralympic Committee president, who was elected IPC head at its general assembly in September 2017, said the organisation will have a "strong and deep discussion" on this issue during its membership gathering in Madrid, Spain, in September 2018, although a decision may not be reached at that meeting.

"I would say the first edition will happen in at least six years, from the moment we take the decision," said Parsons, who was in Singapore only for the day, and jetted off to Paris after the dialogue.

The former journalist, whose election manifesto included the creation of the YPG, added that it would be an extension of the regional youth Games that are already held in the Americas, Asia and Europe.

"We will be providing more and more steps to the pathway for our athletes... we also think it would be also another important opportunity to showcase para-sport," he said.

"Of course the example of the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) indicates that it is something that is feasible."

Singapore hosted the first summer YOG in 2010 - followed by Nanjing (2014) and Buenos Aires (2018) - and the Asean Para Games (APG) in 2015.

Asked if the Republic could potentially host the first YPG, Parsons said: "I think Singapore is ready to organise many international events at the highest levels; yes, the country has organised the Youth Olympics, so why not the Youth Paralympics too? But we have to go through the bid process, and it has to make sense for Singapore too."

Singapore National Paralympic Council chairman Kevin Wong is keen for the Republic to host the Games if they come to fruition.

He said: "I think it would be a wasted opportunity if Singapore didn't do the first one; we did the YOG and if there is an opportunity to do the first YPG, we should take it."

Wong said Parsons was "blown away" by the facilities at the Singapore Sports Hub during a tour earlier in the day, and believes the Republic has what it takes to successfully host the Games.

"Logistically it would be the same as the Asean Para Games... from an environmental and infrastructural set-up we are a lot more accessible now. We used to struggle to find wheelchair-accessible buses to ferry the athletes around, but now most of the public transport is wheelchair-accessible," said Wong, also the Singapore Disability Sports Council president.

"From an equipment, logistical viewpoint, we are ready, and from a cultural and societal view, we long for the Asean Para Games or SEA Games to come back. When Joseph Schooling and (Yip) Pin Xiu brought back their gold medals from Rio, they really united the country that hadn't been that excited around a sports achievement for a long time.

"It is a different world and I think people need to see that world to realise how fortunate they are... and at the Para Games, you don't think about their disabilities, you just get amazed by their abilities."