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HomeOlympicsParalympic growth could be 'jeopardised' by any Olympic merger

Paralympic growth could be ‘jeopardised’ by any Olympic merger

Scottish tandem pair Neil Fachie and Lewis Stewart battle with Wales's James Ball and Matt Rotherham
The men’s tandem races at the Commonwealths saw some tremendous battles between Scotland’s Neil Fachie and Wales’ James Ball
Hosts: Birmingham Dates: 28 July to 8 August
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The International Paralympic Committee says Paralympic growth could be “jeopardised” if the Games was to be merged with the Olympics.

The Para-sport programme at the 2022 Commonwealth Games has been a big success and led to calls for greater integration.

But while the sports and athletes involved in Birmingham have benefited from the increased profile, IPC spokesman Craig Spence told the BBC’s Access All podcast that the current agreement for separate Olympics and Paralympics “serves us well”.

The current deal for the same city to host both Games was signed in 2018 and runs until the 2032 Games in Brisbane.

“Since 1988, we have seen exponential growth in Paralympic sport,” said Spence, the IPC’s chief brand and communications officer.

“We are on a strong ascendancy and growing the Games so combining both events would potentially stunt and jeopardise that growth, and we could potentially go backwards.

“This is a conversation that crops up regularly, but you have to look to see if it makes sense to bring both Games together and at the moment we believe it doesn’t.

“The current agreement works for us at the moment. It serves us well and we like it and are keen to keep it.”

Birmingham has featured a record 42 Para-sport events across eight sports, with over 350 athletes taking part in a fully-integrated programme.

Huge crowds cheered on the likes of swimmers Maisie Summers-Newton and Bethany Firth, athletes Hannah Cockroft and Olivia Breen and cyclists Neil Fachie and James Ball to gold medal glory as they represented the home nations.

However, the 2024 Paris Paralympics will have 549 medal events with around 4,400 athletes plus support staff in attendance.

And while Paralympic legend Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson backs greater integration at Commonwealth as well as at European and world level, she told the podcast that the logistics of a combined Olympics and Paralympics were challenging

“On a practical level I don’t think there is a city in the world that could hold a combined Games,” she said.

“There are 10,000 athletes at an Olympics and about 4,500 at a Paralympics, and as well as the increased cost it would end up being a programme of about a month.

“So in reality, you would have to cut events and what would you cut?

“It would have to be a smaller Games and spectators wouldn’t be able to watch as many disabled people take part.

“People in Birmingham have loved watching disabled people competing [at the Commonwealth Games], so we have to keep building the profile of the Paralympics to get people coming and watching Para-athletes.”

Spence is also concerned that any merger could dilute the impact of the Paralympics.

“Britain leads the way when it comes to Paralympic sport and coverage but that’s not the same around the world,” he said.

“Maybe the equality we want is the same level of coverage from broadcasters around the world for Olympics and Paralympics – not just in Britain.

“Our fear is if you were to bring both events together you would hear much less about Paralympic performances and you would jeopardise the impact of the Games being the most transformational sporting event on earth.

“Our ambition is to continue growing the Paralympics and there is so much more potential there to make the Games even better.”

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