The International Paralympic Committee announced that the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will feature 22 sports, with badminton and taekwondo included for the first time.
Sailing, however, was eliminated, along with football seven-a-side, because the sports did not fulfill the committee’s “minimum criteria for worldwide reach.”
“I know a lot of disabled sailors here in Miami who are shocked by this decision,” Info-Link Technologies managing director Jack Ellis told Trade Only Today.
"It is incredible to see how therapeutic and liberating sailing is for people who are otherwise wheelchair-bound," Ellis said. "And the term Paralympic may be perceived by some as a second-tier competition, but these Paralympic athletes are among some of the best sailors in the world, included able-bodied sailors."
Ellis said a petition has been launched at change.org to reinstate sailing as a sport in the 2020 Games. It had 12,828 supporters as of this morning.
At a Jan. 31 meeting in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, the IPC Governing Board approved an additional six sports for inclusion in the Games, adding to 16 that were ratified and announced after a meeting in October, according to Sailing Scuttlebutt.
Sailing was introduced at the Atlanta 1996 Paralympic Games as a demonstration sport, using the triple-handed Sonar, and it became a medal sport at the Sydney 2000 Games.
Sailing events have been open to athletes with any type of physical impairment and the classification system is based on four factors: stability, hand function, mobility and vision.
IPC president Philip Craven said the committee undertook “the most extensive and rigorous review process ever of all the sports, which started in November 2013.”
“The board’s final decision was not an easy one and, after much debate, we decided not to include two sports — football seven-a-side and sailing — from the Tokyo 2020 program for the same reason,” Craven said in a statement. “Both did not fulfill the IPC Handbook’s minimum criteria for worldwide reach.”
The IPC Handbook says that only team sports widely and regularly practiced in a minimum of 24 countries and three IPC regions will be considered for inclusion in the Paralympic Games. For individual sports, the criteria are a minimum of 32 countries in three IPC regions.