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Minor changes only as 2021 Paralympic schedule unveiled

Officials say they are mindful of the need to cater for athletes and spectators with a range of health requirements.

The Ariake Olympic venue lit up in support of medical workers last month.
The Ariake Olympic venue lit up in support of medical workers last month.
Image: Eugene Hoshiko

TOKYO 2020 ORGANISERS unveiled the new schedule for the coronavirus-postponed Paralympics next year, with only minor modifications to the original calendar for the event.

The historic decision to delay the 2020 Games over the pandemic means the Paralympics are now scheduled to run from August 24 to September 5, 2021.

The programme will feature 539 events across 22 sports, with modifications made only to start and finish times for some events, Tokyo 2020 said at a press conference.

“Having the schedule fixed is a big step for athletes. We would like to continue our work to create a safe and secure Games,” Tokyo 2020 Games delivery officer Hidemasa Nakamura told reporters.

The postponement of the Games has created a massive headache for organisers, as they navigate everything from securing venues to devising coronavirus countermeasures.

So far specific measures to prevent infection have not been announced, with decisions expected sometime this autumn.

For the Paralympics in particular, officials said they are mindful that they must cater to the needs of individual athletes and spectators with a range of different health and physical requirements.

Tokyo organisers said they are also working with the International Paralympic Committee to assess how the viral pandemic has affected athletes in various countries.

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Japanese Paralympian and taekwondo fighter Mitsuya Tanaka told reporters at the briefing that the pandemic has deeply affected athletes. 

“In taekwondo, we go face to face. We have restrictions during sparring, for example. Compared to the time before the coronavirus, we cannot practise like we used to,” he said. 

“Of course we are all concerned. I am too. But we will do what we can to manage our safety. All the other athletes are doing the same as they prepare for this. I believe that’s the duty of athletes,” he said.

Much about the rescheduled Games remains uncertain, including the cost of the postponement and whether the event will be feasible if a vaccine or treatment for the virus is not found.

Among the proposals mooted for holding the Games during a pandemic is a reduction in the number of spectators, though Olympic officials have said they are not keen on limiting fans and do not want to hold the event behind closed doors.

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AFP

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