Yesterday, the International Paralympic Committee’s Governing Board met in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates and announced that sailing and 7-a-side football had not been selected for 2020 Summer Paralympic program. They also warned that cycling that the track discipline could be at risk for the future as the sport did not look sustainable.
ISAF, disability sailing’s governing body, said on their website, “ISAF is extremely disappointed to receive this news from the International Paralympic Committee. Sailing adds a unique element to Paralympic sport through open events that include athletes with a broad range of disabilities. At the London 2012 Paralympic Games, 23 nations from four continents were represented across the three Paralympic events. Every effort will be made to reinstate sailing to the Paralympic Games.”
Geoff Holt, who drove for the sport’s initial inclusion on the 1996 Summer Paralympics program, is quoted in response to the decision as saying, “I was involved in the team that helped get sailing introduced as a Paralympic sport in 1996 in Atlanta. Andy Cassel won gold for GBR. That moment resulted in a seismic shift for disabled sailing the world over. RYA Sailability showcased sailing as one of the only sports in the world where everyone, regardless of disability, could compete with each other. I was never good enough myself to race competitively, so for the past 20 years or more I have sat on endless sailing committees at national and international level helping to develop this family we called sailing (there is no disabled and able bodied sailing – on the water we are all equal). The pinnacle of excellence in sport is the Olympics / Paralympics. Since 1996 we have witnessed unbelievable professionalism and skill from teams around the world as sailing has matured as a Paralympic sport. Today, the International Paralympic Committee announced sailing would be excluded from the 2020 Tokyo Games. On behalf of everyone involved, I feel your sadness and disbelief in this decision. To me it is wrong, desperately wrong.”
IPC President Sir Philip Craven was quoted in an IPC news story as saying of the decision, “I would like to thank all 24 sports for applying for inclusion in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and pass on my congratulations to the 22 sports that have been approved by the IPC Governing Board. In particular, I’d like to pay testament to the sports of badminton and taekwondo for the work they have undertaken in securing their place at a Paralympic Games for the first time.
“To reach this decision, the IPC undertook the most extensive and rigorous review process ever of all the sports which started in November 2013.
“All were assessed against the same criteria and our aim all along has been to ensure that the final Tokyo 2020 Paralympic sports programme is fresh and features the best para-sports possible.
“The Board’s final decision was not an easy one and, after much debate, we decided not to include two sports – football 7-a-side and sailing – from the Tokyo 2020 programme for the same reason. Both did not fulfil the IPC Handbook’s minimum criteria for worldwide reach.”
Sports that are now officially on the 2020 Paralympic program include two new sports, badminton and taekwondo, alongside athletics, archery, boccia, canoe, cycling, equestrian, football 5-a-side, goalball, judo, powerlifting, rowing, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, table tennis, triathlon, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair fencing, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair tennis.