Everything you need to know about the 2020 Paralympic Games

The Paralympics is taking place in Tokyo between Aug. 25 and Sept. 5.

What’s on the schedule?

There will be 539 events taking place across 22 sports, hosted at 21 different venues. There are two new additions to the Games, with badminton and taekwando set to make their Paralympic debuts.

The event starts with an opening ceremony on Aug. 24, before events for cycling, goalball, swimming, table tennis, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair fencing and wheelchair rugby kick things off the following day.

How will COVID-19 affect the event?

Like the Olympics, the Paralympics will take place in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Japanese government and Tokyo event organisers have implemented strict restrictions around travel, spectators and nonessential workers, meaning delegation sizes have been severely limited from previous events.

-Paralympics follows Olympics’ no-fans mandate

The affect of this has already been seen in the weeks leading in to the event. Deaf-blind swimmer Becca Myers, a gold medalist at Rio 2016, pulled out of this year’s Paralympics after the USOPC denied her request to have her mother at the games in Tokyo as her personal care assistant (PCA), a role she’s carried out since 2017.

America’s swimming team is a good example of how stringent the rules are — the federation has only one slot for a PCA to deal with its 34 swimmers.

Stand-out Paralympics stories

Blind sprinter David Brown found clarity in just 10.92 seconds
When America’s David Brown shattered the world record in the T-12 classification at Rio 2016, it was the culmination of a remarkable journey through hardships and self-doubt.

What classes an athlete as eligible for the Paralympics?

The Paralympics is committed to competitive and fair competition. Impairments are therefore measured and classified to enable athletes to be grouped together for balanced competition.

The Paralympics likens this to grouping athletes by age, gender or weight — it is done to avoid lopsided competition.

There are 10 impairment types — outlined in greater detail here by the IPC — which qualify someone for Paralympic competition:

In the Paralympics, sports are further split apart by classifications, which are determined to strengthen the competitive playing field across the board. Amputee sports classification is an example of how this works — A1, A2, A3 and A4 classifications are for athletes with different types of lower limb amputations, while A5, A6, A7, A8 and A9 are for athletes with upper limb amptutations.

Athletes will be evaluated and classified and put into the category the governing body feels is appropriate both for themselves and the other athletes in that classification.

The classification system has evolved — and continues to evolve — since the first Paralympic games. It exists across every event and measures a range of things including but not limited to spinal chord injuries, wheelchair mobility, cerebral palsy and vision impairments.

It remains controversial, however, with a growing number of athletes questioning the fairness of the classification system, including complaints about imbalanced competitions. This is likely to be a major talking point at this year’s Games.

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