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The IPC’s update on coronavirus disease (COVID-19) – 03/09/2020

05 September 2020

The purpose of this biweekly update is to keep everyone within the Paralympic Movement informed of the latest developments with the COVID-19 pandemic and how it relates to the Paralympic Games and Para sport.

This week’s update contains the following information:

·         #WaitForTheGreats and Rising Phoenix get the world talking Paralympics

·         How to activate your athletes in the absence of sport, by Ratko Kovačić, NPC Croatia President

·         IPC and Tokyo 2020 updates – includes news of a new Paralympic podcast

·         Athletes research and disability awareness raising projects - includes athlete research study on respiratory tract infections and call for nominations UNESCO Prize for Digital Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities

·         World Health Organisation update


Thank you to all the members for your fantastic help in supporting the #WaitForTheGreats one-year-to-go (1YTG) campaign and the launch of the Netflix movie Rising Phoenix. We’ve a quick update on both these activities.

Our lead article this week comes from Ratko Kovačić, NPC Croatia President. He explains how they have used the lockdown period to try and help every athlete develop themselves on what it is to be a Paralympian.

In particular, Kovačić highlights three activities that NPC Croatia have developed with their athletes: online workshops in communications and marketing to help with their personal development; created exercise videos that benefited people with disabilities across Croatia; engaged in a campaign to say thank you to their sponsors for their support. We endorse Kovačić’s thinking that these athletes are a credit to the Paralympic Movement.

This newsletter also contains updates on projects aimed to give increased prominence and understanding of Paralympic sport: a new Paralympic podcast with Allianz that are a platform for Para athletes to tell their sporting life, showcase their personalities and tackle subjects that are close to their hearts and of interest to fans.; a new international research study on the effects of respiratory infections in athletes; and a call for nominations of the 2020/2021 UNESCO/Emir Jaber al Ahmad al Jaber al Sabah Prize for Digital Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities.

We want this mail to continually highlight initiatives that National Paralympic Committees (NPCs), International Federations (IFs) and athletes are doing. If you would like to let us know about your story or raise awareness of any other initiative, then please get in contact at


#WaitForTheGreats and Rising Phoenix get the world talking Paralympics

We may not have had Tokyo this year, but all of us have ensured that there has been a global conversation about Paralympic sport.

Last week, we launched our #WaitForTheGreats campaign with our first ever TV advert, created for the IPC by our pro-bono agency adam&eveDDB. The reaction from the Movement in sharing it has been fantastic, and the advert itself has drawn praise from Paralympic broadcasters and advertising media. If you didn’t see it first time around, then you can view it here (Audio described version:

On Rising Phoenix, your help in promoting the film launching on Netflix, and also the Global Conversation on Saturday 29 August, has had a huge impact. We have had world-famous celebrities and politicians helping us raise awareness.

The filmmakers at HTYT Stories tell us that worldwide mentions for the movie are now in the hundreds of millions. Crucially, the movie is helping us reach audiences new to Paralympic sport and educating them that change can start with sport.

There continue to be new elements that we can use to keep that conversation going; the latest being a conversation between Prince Harry and five of the athletes from the movie – a full version of this video will be live on Friday 4 September.

On Sunday 6 September, we will wrap up the 1YTG campaign with a ’Closing Ceremony’. This will start at 19:00 CEST on IPC channels. It will feature the rap artists with disabilities who performed the Rising Phoenix title track, along with Daniel Pemberton, the composer of the soundtrack. Please join us for this hour-long celebration.

We want to use this event as another promotional opportunity to get people to watch the movie. The more that people watch Rising Phoenix, the more it encourages media organisations like Netflix to create content that raises awareness about disabilities. So, if you or your staff have not watched it, then please do. If you’ve already watched it, consider watching it again. And please do continue to encourage people in your network to view it. It is an amazing advert for the Paralympic Movement.


How to activate your athletes in the absence of sport, by Ratko Kovačić, NPC Croatia President

The COVID-19 pandemic, and the resultant isolation and postponement of the Paralympic Games, changed the everyday life of all Croatian Paralympians. Everyone has had to adapt, and we at NPC Croatia are no different.

We changed our planned activities and used the new time to provide content that we think will be of great benefit to Paralympic athletes and other stakeholders is a post-COVID environment.

At a time when the whole Paralympic world has not had the opportunity to train in normal conditions, we believed it was essential to stay in touch with athletes and help them adapt to new and unknown circumstances. We have used this time to try and help every athlete develop themselves on what it is to be a Paralympian.

We wanted to share three aspects of what we have done – online workshops on personal development, digital outreach to people with disabilities in Croatia, and partner engagement – with the hope that it might be of interest to other NPCs.

1.    Online workshops on personal development

As part of the arrangements for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2021, NPC Croatia launched a slightly different ‘preparation’ series - online workshops for all its athletes and coaches, with a special emphasis on marketing and communication activities. At the time of lockdown, in addition to maintaining physical shape, we thought this was also an opportunity for every athlete to develop themselves personally. The response from our athletes was amazing.

Through three different one-hour online lectures with various marketing experts, Paralympians have had access to content directly from their homes and gained insights into new dimensions of their sports life and opportunities. Key topics of the workshops were: creating a personal brand, managing social media accounts and explaining the difference between donations and sponsorships.

Athletes often focus only on sports, putting everything else to one side. However, with COVID-19 this is not possible, and everything that is happening around us is so much bigger than sport. That is why we wanted our athletes to realise their greater social duty to slow down the spread of the virus and give people hope.

It's also been an important learning for us as an NPC. We often do not set aside time for such workshops, but they have proven to be extremely important for the development of each athlete individually.

Now, looking forward, we have concluded that we should introduce such activities into our regular annual plan, since the topics and lecturers proved to be a fantastic success. It is incredibly pleasing that, as a direct result of this work, we have seen athletes set up their fan page accounts or start their search for private sponsors.

2.    Get in shape with the Paralympians

We believed we could put our knowledge to a greater use in Croatian society. We wanted to make it easier for all people throughout our country with disabilities to stay at home. So, in collaboration with our coaches and athletes, we designed special training videos for persons in wheelchairs, blind and visually impaired persons, and persons with amputations.

The project arose in just a few days, from a new problem that we recognised – the range of motion of persons with disabilities was significantly reduced during the lockdown. The main message from the project is that we can all set aside at least 30 minutes a day to exercise, whether we are athletes or not.

All workouts were tailored for beginners or for basic athlete preparation. We asked Croatian athletes and coaches to set aside one day of their time to help create exercise examples, with the hope that these sports activities could leave a lasting impact for persons with disabilities in Croatia. We recorded three different sets of video exercises in a short period of time and shared them via social networks and media.

Wheelchair training gave special attention to circulation improvement and activating, as well as balancing all muscle groups in order to reduce the possibility of injury. Training for amputees focused on spinal exercises, with the consideration that people with amputations should do exercises to strengthen the abdominal and back muscles.

Exercising is especially important for the blind and visually impaired, primarily because it improves motor skills essential for normal functioning. Our focus for them was on balance, as this is one of the most important systems damaged in blind and visually impaired persons – it helps prevent falls.

In addition to developing the videos in the Croatian language, the project was also adapted for an English-speaking audience. I am very proud that our athletes have been able to pass on their knowledge to help others.

3.    A deeper connection with sponsors and partners

The third aspect of our COVID-19 outreach was to get Croatian athletes active in sending messages of support to all NPC Croatia sponsors and partners – we wanted to make it clear that they support them now when it is most needed, just as the sponsors provided support to NPC Croatia athletes when they needed it the most.

The message was simple – Paralympians and sponsors are here to give each other the strength to move on. Although now we are not physically together, we will soon move towards new victories. Our Paralympians thanked sponsors and partners from the bottom of the heart, especially those ones who had worked selflessly during the lockdown for all of us in these difficult times. They deserve nothing less than sincere gratitude, admiration and support. We wanted them to know that together we will succeed and that they know that the Paralympians are with them.

A small token of attention has contributed a lot in strengthening relationships with long-term and new sponsors. Also, video messages were shared by all the NPC Croatia sponsors on social media, some of them included this message in their internal newsletters or personal emails to their employees. Consequently, this activity reached the eyes of wider audience, which has resulted in increased brand awareness for Croatian Paralympians.

Had things gone as planned this year my pride would be about how our athletes have performed at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. But, as the hashtag says, we need to #WaitForTheGreats. Instead I have a new and different kind of satisfaction, that our athletes and team have stepped up and played their part at a time when we were most challenged. I believe they’ve been a credit to the Paralympic Movement.


IPC & Tokyo 2020 updates

New IPC podcast explores Paralympic educational, confidence and self-improvement themes

As part of the 1YTG campaign, the IPC has launched its first ever podcast. “A Winning Mindset: Lessons From The Paralympics” is a partnership between the IPC and Allianz. The empowering podcasts are not only about sport, but cover an extensive range of educational, confidence and self-improvement themes. 

Each podcast will provide a platform for Para athletes to tell their sporting life, showcase their personalities and tackle subjects that are close to their hearts and of interest to fans. Issues to be explored include: activism, leadership, motivation, changing attitudes, overcoming failure, mental health, resilience, diversity, family and inclusion.

The weekly podcasts will run as an initial series of 20 episodes until early 2021. The first two athletes to feature are Jonnie Peacock (Theme - Family) and Tatyana McFadden (Theme – Disability Activism). It is the intention to cover a wide array of Paralympic sports.

Here is a link so you can listen to “A Winning Mindset: Lessons From The Paralympics” now, but it is available on free subscription on all the major podcast platforms

The support of the Movement is going to contribute greatly to making this a success, so please subscribe to the podcast and leave a review.

Tokyo 2020 Paralympic competition schedule

The full schedule is available on the Tokyo 2020 website. 

Tokyo 2020 Qualification

The qualification regulations for all 22 sports can be found here:

Para sport event postponements and cancellations

The list of cancelled Para sport events remains on the IPC website and is being regularly updated. You can find details here.

Athletes research and disability awareness raising projects

Athlete research study on respiratory tract infections

The IPC is collaborating with a new research study on athletes who have recently suffered from a respiratory infection, such as COVID-19.

The AWARE Research Study is an international project with multiple institutions, including the International Olympic Committee (IOC), FIFA, World Rugby and World Athletics. We are looking to better understand the health impact of respiratory tract infections, including COVID-19, in athletes.

Athletes at all levels, from all sports and all abilities can take part in the study. To take part, athletes need to have had symptoms of a respiratory tract infection, such as any flu-like illness, in the last six months.

Athlete input will make a significant contribution to improving the medical care of athletes and formulating safe, evidence-based return to sport guidelines after a respiratory tract infection.

This is the link to the online questionnaire for athletes to take part:


UNESCO projects to raise disability awareness

UNESCO, the United Nations agency aimed at promoting world peace and security through international cooperation in education, the sciences, and culture, has two new disability awareness projects of note for members.

They have launched a project titled ‘Story for Development’ which invites persons with disabilities from all over the world to tell and share their stories in order to identify and explore the enabling factors and facilitators for persons with disabilities around the world to be empowered and what supported them in their efforts.

This project aims to demonstrate before government authorities, legislators, decision-makers, and key stakeholders that persons with disabilities from all age groups and backgrounds can be and are ‘empowered’, act as active agents, and contributing members to the creation of wealth in our societies.

The collection of stories will constitute an essential set of case studies and data from persons with disabilities to develop informed policies and encourage community action.

Individuals are invited to share their story using the following website:

Additionally, UNESCO would like to make members aware of a call for nominations for the 2020/2021 UNESCO/Emir Jaber al Ahmad al Jaber al Sabah Prize for Digital Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities. 

The aim of the Prize – which has a $40,000 fund attached to it - is to reward the outstanding contributions of individuals and organisations that promote inclusion and the enhancement of the lives of persons with disabilities in society through the effective, innovative and inclusive application of digital solutions, including an immediate response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

You can find more information about the Prize here:


World Health Organisation update

According to WHO’s latest Daily Situation Dashboard on 2 September 2020 15:56 CEST, the number of confirmed worldwide cases has risen to nearly 25.6 million, with over 852,000 deaths confirmed. John Hopkins University of Medicine is reporting that nearly 17.4 million people have recovered.

Eight months into the pandemic, WHO appreciate that people want to get back to a normal life. WHO fully supports efforts to re-open economies and societies. They want to see children returning to school and people returning to the workplace, but they want to see it done safely and warn that no country can just pretend the pandemic is over.

WHO believe there are four essential things that all countries, communities and individuals must focus on to take control:

1.      Prevent amplifying events. COVID-19 spreads very efficiently among clusters of people.

2.      Reduce deaths by protecting vulnerable groups, including older people, those with underlying conditions and essential workers.

3.      Individuals must play their part by taking the measures to protect themselves and others – stay at least one metre away from others, clean your hands regularly, practise respiratory etiquette, and wear a mask.

4.      Governments must take tailored actions to find, isolate, test and care for cases, and trace and quarantine contacts.

The IPC continues to use the WHO and their site as its main source of information regarding the COVID-19. It provides regular situation reports and have a wide range of guidance on health and protection, travel advice, as well as extensive myth-busting and technical guidance sections.

Their 'Key planning recommendations for mass gatherings in the context of COVID-19' guidance can be accessed on this link.

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