The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is expecting a record attendance for its upcoming General Assembly in Abu Dhabi, where the third President in the global governing body’s 28-year history is set to be elected.
The 18th edition of the General Assembly and Conference is due to begin on Tuesday (September 5) and conclude on Friday (September 8) with the election of a new IPC Governing Board and successor to Sir Philip Craven, who has led the organisation since 2001.
Nearly 330 representatives from 167 IPC member organisations, the most ever to attend a General Assembly, are set to be at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre in the United Arab Emirates’ capital.
As well as the member organisations - made up of 144 National Paralympic Committees, 15 International Federations, four Regional Organisations and four International Organisations of Sport for the Disabled - there will also be representatives of the Americas Paralympic Committee present.
The last time elections were held for the IPC Governing Board was in 2013, when Greece’s capital Athens staged the 17th General Assembly.
Back then, 274 representatives from 148 IPC members attended as Sir Philip was elected for his fourth and final term as President.
"This week in Abu Dhabi will mark the end of an era for the Paralympic Movement and the start of a new chapter with the election of a new IPC Governing Board," Sir Philip, who will stand down on October 8 in an attempt to ensure a smooth transition to his successor, said.
"It promises to be an emotional few days for me personally
"With so much at stake and to be discussed, I am delighted that 167 IPC members, 19 more than the last elections four years ago, plus the Americas Paralympic Committee, will attend the General Assembly to decide the Paralympic Movement’s future direction.
"Through a combination of support from the Local Organising Committee and the IPC, I am also pleased that 52 members from our solidarity nations, more than ever before, can attend this meeting at zero cost as it is important that all of our members have a view on our future."
On Tuesday morning, the IPC membership will receive updates on a number of matters, including diversity in the Paralympic Movement, sport competitions fees and the criteria for the inclusion of sports and disciplines in future Paralympic Games.
In the afternoon session, Rio 2016 will present its post-Games report while the Organising Committees of Pyeongchang 2018, Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 will deliver their latest progress reports.
All candidates standing for election to the IPC Governing Board will have an opportunity to present to the membership on Wednesday (September 6).
This will include the four candidates hoping to succeed Sir Philip as IPC President - Canada’s Patrick Jarvis, Brazil’s Andrew Parsons, Denmark’s John Petersson and China’s Zhang Haidi.
Petersson recently promised, if elected as President of the IPC, to work on negotiating better terms with hosts of the organisation’s General Assembly after claiming to have learned that a number of members will not be able to attend this year’s event because of the cost.
The Dane, a former Paralympic swimmer and winner of 15 medals, including six gold, claimed certain members are unable to attend "not because they are unwilling, but because their organisation simply cannot afford them to".
The former European Paralympic Committee President described this as "unfortunate", adding that "only by ensuring every member has their voice heard can we make our democratic process stronger and more durable".
Prior to Sir Philip delivering his biennial report on Thursday (September 7) morning, the IPC will officially welcome a number of new member organisations pending approval from the General Assembly.
Following a presentation on the IPC’s finances, a number of motions put forward by the membership will be discussed and decided upon.
On Thursday evening, exactly one year on from the opening of the Rio 2016 Paralympics, the Paralympic Movement will gather for the 2017 Paralympic Sport and Media Awards.
Supported by Allianz, the awards recognise and celebrate achievements by athletes, teams, officials and the media at last September’s Games.
The BP Courage Award and a number of Paralympic Orders will also be presented.
The election of the third IPC President and a new vice-president will dominate Friday morning’s agenda.
In the afternoon, 10 members at large will be elected from a list of up to 21 candidates.
All 167 of the attending IPC members, plus the Americas Paralympic Committee, will be able to vote in the elections.