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Interview: Paralympic boss confident of this summer’s Games

Tokyo, May 15 (Jiji Press)–International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons has stressed his confidence that the Tokyo Paralympic Games will go ahead as scheduled this summer.
   

Regarding the possibility of canceling the event or changing the way to hold it, Parsons said, “We are not planning any of that.”
   

The games will be held even if novel coronavirus infections spread among participants to the Tokyo Olympics, which will precede the Paralympics, Parsons said in an online interview Friday.
   

As Sunday marks 100 days until the Aug. 24 start of the Paralympics, postponed for a year along with the Olympics due to the coronavirus pandemic, Parsons stressed that plans are in place for preventing infections.
   

“We understand the feeling of negativity” in some part of Japanese society, he said of rising calls for canceling both events. “Uncertainty brings fear, and sometimes fear becomes anger.”
   

On whether to implement restrictions on spectators as part of coronavirus measures, the final decision of which has been postponed to June, Parsons said that it is “realistic” for the games to be held in front of a live audience.
   

He said that, even if infections spread during the Olympics, “there is strong planning for the transition period” until the Paralympics.
   

“We have ways to protect the Paralympic population by disinfecting the (athletes’) village, all venues, the transport system and so on,” he said.
   

There are concerns that Paralympians with underlying conditions, who are at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms, may not be able to receive adequate treatment due to the shortage of hospital beds for severely ill patients in some parts of Japan.
   

However, Parsons said he does not believe the Paralympics will be a big burden on the Japanese medical system.
   

“If there are very acute cases, we will have the necessary medical infrastructure to treat any para athletes,” he said.
   

Parsons argued that that the frequent testing and monitoring of athletes and restrictions on their movement can prevent infections during the sporting event, saying,

 

“Countermeasures are more robust than in any other sports events.”
   

While the latest edition of the “Playbook,” or guidelines about coronavirus measures for athletes and related officials, bars contact between athletes and the outside world in principle, such restrictions are not planned for volunteers who enter the venues.
   

Asked about the inadequacy in the coronavirus prevention bubble, Parsons said he understands the concern. Without going into details, he stated that the infection prevention plans will work.
   

He said that surveys with national Paralympic committees have found that some 60 pct of athletes in foreign delegations are expected to arrive after being vaccinated against the coronavirus.
   

He added that the figure will rise as Pfizer Inc. has said it would supply athletes with its vaccine.
   

“The vaccine gives me an extra dose of confidence,” he said.
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