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Paralympic development could be “at risk” from any merger of the Olympic Games

The men’s tandem events at the Commonwealths saw some huge battles between Scotland’s Neil Fachie and Wales’ James Ball
Hosts: Birmingham Dates: July 28 to August 8
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The International Paralympic Committee says the development of the Paralympic Games could be “at risk” if the Games are merged with the Olympics.

The Para-sport program at the 2022 Commonwealth Games was a great success and led to calls for greater integration.

But while the sports and athletes taking part in Birmingham have benefited from the increased profile, IPC spokesman Craig Spence said The BBC Access All podcast that the current agreement for separate Olympic and Paralympic Games “serves us well”.

The current deal for the same city to host both Games was signed in 2018 and runs until the 2032 Games in Brisbane.

“Since 1988, we have seen exponential growth in Paralympic sport,” said Spence, the IPC’s head of brand and communications.

“We’re on a strong rise and we’re growing the Games, so the combination of both events could potentially hinder and jeopardize that growth and we could potentially go backwards.

“That’s a debate that comes up regularly but you have to look to see if it makes sense to bring both games together and at the moment we don’t think it does.

“The current arrangement is working for us right now. It’s serving us well and we like it and we want to keep it.”

Birmingham has fielded a record 42 para-sports across eight sports, with over 350 athletes taking part in a fully integrated programme.

Huge crowds cheered swimmers Maisie Summers-Newton and Bethany Firth, gymnasts Hannah Cockroft and Olivia Breen and cyclists Neil Fachie and James Ball to gold as they represented the home countries.

However, the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games will have 549 medal events with around 4,400 athletes and support staff attending.

And while Paralympic legend Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson supports greater integration at Commonwealth as well as European and global level, she told the podcast that the logistics of the combined Olympics and Paralympics were challenging

“On a practical level I don’t think there is a city in the world that could host a combined Games,” he said.

“There are 10,000 athletes in the Olympics and about 4,500 in the Paralympics, and like the increased costs it would end up being about a month’s program.

“So actually you would have to cut the facts and what would you cut?

“It would have to be smaller Games and spectators would not be able to watch as there are many disabled people taking part.

“People in Birmingham loved watching disabled people compete [at the Commonwealth Games]so we need to continue to build the profile of the Paralympic Games to get people to come and watch para-athletes.”

Spence is also concerned that any merger could reduce the impact of the Paralympics.

“Britain is leading the way in terms of Paralympic sport and coverage, but that’s not the same around the world,” he said.

“Perhaps the equality we want is the same level of coverage by broadcasters around the world for the Olympic and Paralympic Games – not just in Britain.

“Our fear is that if you combined the two events, you would hear far less about Paralympic performances and jeopardize the impact of the Games as the world’s most transformative sporting event.

“Our ambition is to continue to grow the Paralympic Games and there is so much more potential there to make the Games even better.”

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