A combined partnership between media, sponsorship and the sports organisation are critical to the success of the Paralympics. This is the strong belief of IPC President Andrew Parsons, who despite only talking office a few short months ago has already delivered one of his key points of his election manifesto---a monumental agreement with the IOC.
One of the major points of the agreement is that the IOC will continue to make it obligatory for Olympic host countries to also stage the Paralympics until 2032.
According to Parsons, it was fitting that the announcement of this renewed agreement be shared to the world from the Republic of Korea.
“I think it means a lot to us of course. 30 years ago the Olympics and Paralympics came together after being organised in different parts of the world for nearly 20 years. So to do this announcement here, I think it sends a very strong message that we want to be together, not only because it makes sense from a Games perspective,” he said.
Now that the IPC can rely on the continued support of its Olympic counterpart, the focus turns to bringing Paralympic sport to new audiences via new digital platforms. Parsons, who answered interview questions via Facebook Live, agreed that social media and other communication innovations would play a big part in this challenge.
“We have 22 summer sports and we have six winter sports, maybe seven at Beijing 2022 and that’s how we want to do it and that’s how we’re going to promote it and being direct with different people in different parts of the world,” said Parsons.
With this strategy in mind, it’s clear that The IPC will take a proactive approach to increasing viewership and growing the fan base for Para sports.
“Using social media is super-important for us to interact with the youth in their language, not trying to make them understand our language. I am a 41 year old guy, I’m not 20 or 25 so I have to understand how to interact with this community in a way they understand and feel part of it…I think with this new generation it is not only about what you do but also how you do it… and I think then they could really click with the Paralympic Games.”
Of course one of the major challenges facing both the Olympics and Paralympics is the task of keeping audiences’ attention between the games. Collaboration between sports organisations, media and sponsors is integral to this mission, but governments and other bodies can also do their part to keep momentum going for Para sports by “engaging with National Paralympic Committees,” says Parsons.
“…But it’s a two way street,” he continued. “I think the NPCs also have to be out there and working with the governments and also with the parliaments and changing laws and improving laws. For example in Brazil in the lead up to the Paralympic Games in Rio, a law was improved in the country that improved the lives of persons with disabilities because of the games, both in sport, but also in many different areas.”
The Closing Ceremony of PyeongChang 2018 will see the sun setting on the first of three back-to-back Olympic and Paralympic Games. Following the success of PyeongChang 2018 the IPC under Parsons is just getting started on its plans for Para sport on the continent.
“This is a part of the world where we have to do a lot of work, of course. Asia is a big region for us. Not only in the number of people, but in the number of persons with impairments. There’s also the diversity. We have the Middle East, Asia, South East Asia and big countries such as China, Korea and Japan…You have Kazakhstan, which is becoming a Paralympic powerhouse. I was watching the competition with the NHK guys and they were all cheering for the Japanese, but then the guy from Kazakhstan came from out of nowhere so it was a mixed feeling experience but it was amazing to see that happen. We want to leave a long lasting legacy in this part of the world.”
PyeongChang 2018 set the record for the most Winter Paralympic tickets sold. This was a success for both the PyeongChang Organising Committee and the IPC. According to Parsons, this along with the growth of the global audience was one of the major success stories showing the progression of the Paralympic Games.
“Well I think the sheer number of reporters and media outlets that are here from around the world and the ratings and audience that we are experiencing around the world, I think it’s fantastic. Some people see the Paralympics as a very important sports event but I would also say that part of what we stand for is changing the perception of people about persons with impairment,” he said.
Through the medium of sport, the Paralympic Games has a responsibility not only to Paralympians but to the millions of people around the world that may have impairment, whether they are athletes or not. This is done through awareness and also through the development of new technology developed for the Games that can facilitate greater accessibility.
“It’s like with Formula 1. In the field of play, the technology in the wheelchairs, sit skis and the sledges etc., Some of the things that are here for the athletes performing at the highest level, will one day benefit the citizens in the streets and the millions of people living with an impairment worldwide,” said Parsons.
Attendees of the Closing Ceremony will be in for a treat as Parsons confirmed he would once again embrace the Korean language to greet the people of PyeongChang and those watching at home.
“I am practicing,” said Parsons smiling. “You can expect more Korean words at the closing ceremony. I will never forget those words from the opening ceremony. It took me a long time to practice that. Daehan minguk gukmin yeorobun [My Fellow Koreans].“