Exclusive: Deaf athletes could compete at Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, claims IPC President

Thursday, 17 October 2013
By Nick Butler

Sir Philip Craven was speaking at the London School of Economics in LondonOctober 17 - Sir Philip Craven, President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), has claimed discussions to introduce events for deaf athletes into the Paralympics are ongoing and could be successful by the time of the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

But the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (ICSD) claimed that they had been led to believe that no such process was currently underway.

"It is an objective to get some events for deaf athletes into the Paralympics," Sir Philip said. 

"There has been communication about events being brought back [and] discussions will be ongoing."

Sir Philip highlighted a meeting he had with the new President of the ICSD, Russian Valery Rukhledev, during the International Olympic Committee's annual Session in Buenos Aires last month to illustrate that talks were underway.

"There will be a minimum of seven years of discussions, so it is not something likely for 2016 but it could be in future years," said Sir Philip.

Members of the Russian team which topped the medals table parade during the Opening Ceremony of the 2013 Deaflympics in BulgariaMembers of the Russian team which topped the medals table parade during the Opening Ceremony of the 2013 Deaflympics in Sofia...these athletes could rejoin the Paralympic fold in the future


But Mark Cooper, chief executive of the ICSD, claimed that they had not been informed of any roadmap that would see them make their debut in the Paralympics at Tokyo 2020. 

"ICSD has never been given a minimum amount of time for membership by the IPC," he told insidethegames.

"In broad terms we asked before London 2012 about adding events for deaf athletes and were told then that there was not enough time to do so.

"We asked what the procedure currently was and were told that no procedure was currently in place and that we should await further clarification from the IPC."

Although originally forming part of what was then know as the International Co-ordination Committee of World Sports Organisations for the Disabled (ICC) deaf events broke away in 1996 following the formation of the IPC in 1989.
 
Cooper remained adamant that if deaf events were returned to the Paralympics then it would still not spell the end for the Deaflympics - which were first held in Paris in 1924 so 36 years before the inaugural Paralympics at Rome in 1960.

But he conceded "it has since become clear that the Paralympic Games has garnered a lot of attention and a higher profile".

The Deaflympics in Sofia this year enjoyed far less media attention than the Paralympic events at the Anniversary Games athletics in London, for example. 

Cooper particularly pointed out the case of Britain where UK Deaf Sport lost its £42,000 ($68,000/€45,000) annual grant from UK Sport in 2008 as the support was focused on London 2012.

British athletes travelled to the Deaflympics in Taiwan in 2009 without any National Lottery funding at all, and although they now receive annual support from Sport England this is
 for talent development and was not put towards sending competitors to Sofia this summer.

Great Britain's Tom Smith won two of Britains overall tally of five medals despite the funding cuts at the DeaflympicsBritain's Tom Smith won two of Britain's overall tally of five medals at this year's Deaflympics in Sofia with a silver and a bronze medal in cycling despite lack of funding support


Cooper claimed there would have to be talks with the IPC regarding issues such as classifications because there is only one broad category for deaf athletes "not multiple ones for degrees of impairment like with visually impaired athletes."

Talks on the issue are already ongoing with other International Federations.

"We have had an invitation from the World Taekwondo Federation for example regarding events for deaf athletes at the Para-taekwondo Championships," said Cooper.

"We will sit around a table and talk about how this will work in the future.

"Unless we hear anything we will continue with this core mission, which is focusing upon the Deaflympics, the World Championships and with working with other organisations in order to provide the high level opportunities for our athletes."

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