A guide to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics
Newsfrom JapanSports Tokyo 2020
by Sara HUSSEIN
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympics open on August 24, after a year-long pandemic delay and under strict virus rules, including a ban on almost all spectators.
Here are some questions and answers about the Games and how the event will unfold in Tokyo:
What's the history?
The first Paralympic Games took place in 1960 in Rome, featuring just 400 athletes from 23 countries.
The name Paralympics is intended to indicate an event happening in parallel, alongside the Olympics.
It grew from the Stoke Mandeville Games, a tournament organised in Britain in 1948 for 16 male and female wheelchair athletes, some of them World War II veterans.
It was the idea of Sir Ludwig Guttmann, who oversaw the spinal injuries unit at a hospital in Stoke Mandeville that treated veterans.
Which sports are there?
A total of 22 sports will be contested at the Games, including new additions badminton and taekwondo.
Most sports are common to the Olympics and Paralympics, including athletics and swimming.
Some that feature in both Games involve modifications in their Paralympic form, like wheelchair rugby.
Two sports, boccia and goalball, are unique to the Paralympics.
What are the criteria for para-sports?
Paralympians compete in different categories within a given sport based on their particular impairment.
The Paralympic movement covers 10 impairment types that fall broadly into three categories: physical impairments, vision impairment and intellectual impairment.
Some sports are open to athletes in all categories, while others are reserved for specific impairments.
Within each category, athletes are assessed to see whether they meet a minimum impairment level, to ensure a fair playing field -- although there have been controversies over some placements in recent years.
In some sports like athletics, they are placed in a certain sports class, again pitting them against athletes with similar impairments to ensure equity.
Athletes may be reclassified over their lifetime as their situation changes.
What are the virus rules?
Like at the Olympics, most events will take place behind closed doors to minimise infection risks.
An exception is being made for a programme to bring schoolchildren to events, but some areas have already said they won't take part because of the record high infections being reported in Japan.
Paralympians will face strict measures during their stay, and are allowed to move only between their accommodation, training sites and Games venues.
They will be tested daily, with confirmed positive cases put into isolation and unable to compete.
Who takes part?
Tokyo, which is the first city to host the Paralympics twice, will welcome 4,400 athletes from around 160 countries and territories.
Just a week before the Games, Afghanistan's team -- made up of two Para athletes -- announced they would not be able to take part because of the turmoil in the country.
The Games will feature a refugee team composed of six Para athletes, including Alia Issa, the first woman refugee Para athlete.
China has dominated the gold medal table since Athens 2004, with Britain often in second place and the United States and Ukraine battling it out for third.
Are there unique Paralympic features?
Assistants are used by some Paralympians with vision impairments.
For example, "guide runners" can be attached to an athlete by a strap on their arms or hands, but the athlete must finish ahead of the guide.
Some visually impaired cyclists also pair up with a guide who rides in front in a tandem and is known as a pilot.
And for visually impaired swimmers there are "tappers" -- assistants who tap the athlete's head or body as they approach turns or the finish to keep them safe.
In some sports, like Para athletics track, there are multiple sport classes for athletes with different types of impairment competing in a single event.
For example, the Rio Games featured 16 men's and 14 women's 100 metres gold medals across a range of classes.
© 2021 AFP