Mme. Haidi Zhang, candidate for president of the International Paralympic Committee, hopes that the Asian cycle of three straight Olympics and Paralympics will define the Movement long term. She wants to pave the way as it becomes greener and pioneers ‘sport for all’
As tickets went on sale for the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics last week, Mme. Haidi spoke about how the next decade of major sports events in Asia will shape the future of the Paralympic Movement.
“It’s wonderful to see our neighbours in Korea getting excited about the forthcoming Winter Olympics. As head of China’s National Paralympic Committee, I share their enthusiasm, and am relishing supporting them.”
Mme. Zhang hopes that the Asian cycle of Games, at Pyeongchang 2018, Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022, will define the IPC Movement over the next decade and beyond. She believes the future will be bright, because this is a region where Para sport is already very popular, and because the region is committed towards making major steps forward in sustainability, inclusivity and the use of technology.
Mme. Haidi pointed towards the eco-friendly measures in place at all three of these events already. “Pyeongchang has numerous infrastructure projects that are on track to make it the greenest Winter Games to date,” she said. “Tokyo 2020 is aiming for ‘minimum impact’, while Beijing 2022, the Organising Committee of which I am Executive President, want to go even further. Our use of venues from 2008, and our eco-friendly approach, will showcase the legacy of sustainability.”
Inclusivity is also making major strides. The Pyeongchang Olympics 2018 features mixed gender doubles curling and mixed team alpine skiing for the first time, while the Paralympics sees major expansion of events like snowboarding.
Tokyo 2020 will also feature mixed gender events, the highest number of female athletes ever, and events like surfing and skateboarding with increased youth appeal. Beijing is predicted to build further on this.
“In both Olympic and Paralympic sport, we are seeing more inclusivity for the young and for women. We want sport for all. ”
Mme. Haidi’s candidature for President of the IPC is built upon a track record of inclusivity. As head of the NPC she has overseen a huge increase in the participation of people with an impairment in sport, up to 10 per cent.
“My aim is to share these achievements on a worldwide scale as President of the IPC,” she said.
Asia’s world-leading technology can also have a hugely positive aspect for the Paralympic Movement.
“Technology can be used to appeal to youth, and ensure the future of our Games – look at the inclusion of e-games at the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games,” she said. “Tech is very important to Paralympians, as we often rely on it, from advanced prosthetics to wheelchairs developed in wind tunnels.”
These innovations often transfer to people with an impairment outside sports, too. “ Technological progress is a crucial part of improving the lives of people with an impairment,” she said.
“The research and development applied to sport can be a pioneer, eventually improving lives everywhere. The IPC should sponsor a project to fast-track the application of new technologies in Paralympic sport to use in society more generally.”
Mme. Haidi hopes to oversee this as IPC President. “My goal is to be able to hand over to the next generation of leaders a strong, confident and growing IPC, one that is a model of diversity and inclusion, and on a strong financial footing.”