On Wednesday 20 October, the ANZCCJ Sports for Business Committee hosted an online webinar to reflect on the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, which concluded in September this year. After a one-year postponement and two weeks of incredible competition in Tokyo, Peter Gibson (Executive Advisor Tokyo 2020 - Australian Olympic Committee) and Ian Scott, Co-Chair of the ANZCCJ Sports for Business Committee, sat down with Lynne Anderson (CEO of Paralympics Australia) and Fiona Allan (CEO of Paralympics New Zealand) to share some insights into the games, as well as some highlights and challenges encountered by the Paralympic teams amidst unprecedented times.
Lynne and Fiona shared some of the hard calls and sacrifices they had to make to protect the safety of their athletes. Fiona noted the high stakes involved as, if strict COVID protocols were not followed, athletes would consequently not be able to compete. Therefore, alongside supporting the athletes, safety became a top priority for both teams. Lynne shared that the Australian team made the choice to confine themselves to an ‘Australia Bubble’ within the village, which meant the athletes were unable to mix with those from other countries and were unable to eat at the dining hall. Peter and Lynne recollected that, as a result of this decision, the staff from the Australian team assisted in putting together 900 meals per day for the athletes.
Fiona and Lynne were then asked by Peter to share some of the highlights and challenges that emerged from this year’s Paralympic Games. A highlight for Fiona was the enthusiastic uptake by the New Zealand public. The number of people in New Zealand with a disability who were interested in participating in sport increased greatly, with a 400% uptick in registrations to the New Zealand Paralympic website. According to Fiona, keeping up engagement and team morale amongst the New Zealand athletes was a challenge, as they were unable to attend the opening or closing ceremonies, and thus had to find alternative methods of boosting spirit within the team.
Lynne’s highlight was the real impact of the Paralympic Games in Australia, especially with several states in the midst of lockdown. With more Australians than ever before watching the Paralympics from home, the impact these games had was unprecedented and beyond what had been hoped for. The ‘Green and Gold Virtual Seat’ campaign hoped to raise $500,000 to support current and future Paralympic talent. At the conclusion of these games, the fundraiser had raised over four times this amount, with $2.4 million being donated by the Australian public. This success was noted as a permanent change towards a growing legacy of awareness and social inclusion in Australian parasports. Peter shared that the inclusivity and diversity embraced by Japan, particularly by the NHK ,was a highlight for him.
Peter then went on to ask Lynne and Fiona ways in which companies can become more inclusive. Fiona shared that advertisements are available on the New Zealand Paralympics website for companies to utilise athletes as ambassadors for their brand as a way to further support the comparatively less-funded parasports. Lynne shared the best way for corporations to become involved with the parasports legacy is to look within their own organisations for ways they can improve inclusivity and diversity in their community.
Thank you to our wonderful speakers and to everyone who attended! For those who would like to view the event in full, a recording is available from the ANZCCJ Events Gallery.