The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletes’ Council has launched an online portal for Para-athletes to register and take part in a consultation about athlete protests at the Paralympic Games.
The IPC say the exercise will gather a better understanding on ways Para-athletes could express their views on key subjects, while respecting the Paralympic Movement’s values and principles.
Para-athletes will be able to register to the portal online until August 24.
Focus group sessions will then take place in September, which will be led by the IPC Athletes’ Council and held in English, Spanish and French.
“We encourage as many Para-athletes as possible to sign-up to these focus groups,” said Chelsey Gotell, the IPC Athletes’ Council chairperson.
“They are a fantastic opportunity for Para-athletes to understand more about the current rules, share what subjects they feel passionately about, and give a viewpoint on how they believe these subjects could be best communicated at the Paralympic Games.
“With 12 months to go until Tokyo 2020, time is on our side and the IPC Athletes’ Council will be spending September gathering views of the global athlete community.
“We will then draft a proposal to present to the IPC who fully understand the importance of this exercise and are being fully supportive.
“We all know that athlete protests at the Games is something of a Pandora’s box.
“The last thing we want to do is create a free-for-all at the Games where Para-athletes are free to protest on any subject they like, including ones the wider world will find repulsive, as this will overshadow the sporting performances.
“Our aim is to strike a fine balance whereby Para-athletes can raise their views in a constructive way rather than use the Games as a platform to spread hate.”
The IPC last month announced that a consultation exercise would take place.
The consultation was supported by the IPC Governing Board, at a meeting on July 3.
Under current IPC rules for the Paralympics, Para-athletes are free to share their views on any subject on social media and when speaking to media, but they are not allowed to use the field of play for protest.
The IPC say the focus groups will have a dual purpose.
The first will see the Para-athlete community provided with a better understanding about the current rules, including what is and what is not allowed by athletes, and why the rules are in place.
The second purpose aims to gather first-hand the ideas and thoughts of Para athletes and how they could make their voices heard at the Paralympic Games.
“The whole IPC Governing Board is looking forward to hear what the Para-athlete community has to say during these focus groups,” said Andrew Parsons, the IPC President.
“We want to listen and learn before working with the IPC Athletes’ Council to shape what appropriate changes may be needed for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.”
The IPC added that all discussions and key points from all the Para-athlete focus groups will be published on the IPC Athletes’ Council’s digital media channels.
The move from the IPC follows the International Olympic Committee tasking its Athletes Commission to conduct a similar exercise amid growing pressure on the organisation to relax or abolish its Rule 50, which prohibits athletes from protesting at the Olympic Games.
Rule 50 states: “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”