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It was announced that the 2020 Games, scheduled to take place in Tokyo, will no longer feature Paralympic sailing. This shocking announcement ignited an international protest. The disability sports ambassador Geoff Holt started an online campaign with the aim of having the sport reinstated in the Games. Holt, who was the first quadriplegic to sail solo around Great Britain, hopes to have the decision overturned using the sheer weight of the opposition.
Hope on the horizon
The campaign includes a petition on Change.org and a Facebook page to get the word around on social media. As of 23 February 2015, the petition already achieved over 15,000 signatures and the Facebook page close to 13,000 likes. Petitioners hope to have Paralympic sailing included as the final sport in the Games, since only 22 of the 23 slots have been filled. According to Geoff Holt, Paralympic sailing is of great importance to the games because it is the only Paralympic sport in which every disabled person can compete, whether they are amputees, wheelchair bound, or even blind.
Why drop Paralympic sailing?
Sir Philip Craven, the president of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) stated that Paralympic sailing simply did not fulfil the minimum criteria for international reach, as depicted in the IPC handbook. According to the handbook the Paralympic Games require the sport to be practiced in at least three IPC regions and in 24 countries before consideration. At the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, 23 nations were represented.
Support from the global yachting community
The Australian Paralympic Committee and Yachting Australia expressed tremendous disappointment with the IPC’s decision and offered support. Sail Canada and US Sailing have also committed to ongoing assistance and the Royal Yachting Association of GB is actively looking for further recourse in discussions with ISAF. Despite the obvious distress of being excluded in the acclaimed event, the GB Paralympic sailing team are currently in the US getting ready for the 2016 Games in Rio.