‘Paralympics a catalyst for change’

Rio de Janeiro, Sep 12 (IANS) With less than one year to go for the 2016 Rio Paralympics, International Paralympic Committee (IPC) president Philip Craven has said the event has become a ‘catalyst’ for change, and has called for constant efforts to create an accessible and barrier-free environment.

Craven has been here for a week to celebrate one year to go for the Paralympics and his schedule also includes venue tours and the final Chef de Mission seminar, reports Xinhua.

Concerns have been raised about the lack of accessible access for disabled athletes and spectators here with 2016 organising committee spokesman Mario Andrada admitted that making Rio accessible remained “a huge job”.

“My experience in Rio has been fine but I’m aware that there is still a lot of work to do. The accessibility issue should be addressed. But this is what happens in every city hosting the Games,” Craven said on Friday.

Craven, who will be overseeing his eighth and final Paralympics in Rio as IPC president, believes next year’s sporting spectacle can be transformational, not just for Rio and Brazil but the whole of South America.

“Accessibility is a constant thing which means everything newly-built has to be accessible to all. The construction of accessible facilities in Rio will continue after the Games,” said Craven.

“At London 2012 especially, we saw how the performances of athletes led to the shifts in attitudes towards people with an impairment. The same happened in Beijing 2008 and Sochi last year. I believe Rio 2016 will have a similar impact not just in Brazil but across the whole of South America.”

According to Craven, the Paralympics have developed a strong reputation for being the world’s No.1 sporting event for driving social change and inclusion.

In July, Beijing won the bid for 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics. Craven said it will be very exciting to work with old friends IPC made in 2008.

“I was very pleased to see what happens in China in the run up to 2008. I was also very pleased that the IPC accessibility guide has now been translated, only recently, into Chinese. It’s a fundamental document with regard to accessibility for all citizens in China,” he said.

He stressed again that constancy of social accessibility is needed in preparation for the Paralympics.

“Newly built, whether it’s a building, transport facility, or whatever it might be, it has to be accessible to every Chinese citizen, not just for people who don’t use wheelchair, don’t have a visual impairment,” he explained.

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