BBC News

Paralympics and Olympics merger 'possible after 2020'

By Damon Rose
BBC News

image captionSir Philip said nothing was set in stone

The Paralympics and Olympic Games could merge, says the president of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

Sir Philip Craven said things are developing all the time and nothing is "set in stone".

It would be a controversial move with some Paralympic athletes fearful that disability sporting events would be overshadowed.

But a joint Games has some popular appeal, a BBC survey has suggested.

Speaking on the BBC's Ouch! disability podcast to be broadcast next week, Sir Philip said: "Whatever's right for athletes within the Paralympic movement then let's look to do it.

"It's really a logistical problem at the moment but I'm not dead against the idea, in principle, of them coming together at some time."

With nine years in preparation, he said: "It could not be before, I don't know, 2024, something like that, for the summer Games."

Should it go ahead, Sir Philip said he would not want to shrink the Paralympic element of a combined Games - a worry for many of the athletes.

He said: "Within the IPC we're very keen that if there was some form of merger we would maintain the number of athletes in the Olympic/Paralympic Games."

Fears over merger

In December former Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson said the Paralympic Games would "disappear off the face of the earth" if a merger took place.

She feared only a few of the events would be put in the Olympics.

Baroness Grey-Thompson said: "I'd rather invest time and effort in making sure that the Paralympics can be as parallel to the Olympics as possible."

In March this year, the BBC World Service published the results of a survey of just over 10,000 people taken in 19 nations.

Some 47% of those questioned favoured merging the Games, while 43% said the Paralympics should stay separate.

In the UK, 50% of those surveyed were in favour, and 43% against.

However, many of the countries with the most impressive medal hauls to date wanted to keep the Games split; they included China (67% separate, 27% integrated), the US (64%, 29%), and Australia (54%, 42%).

Now in his third term as IPC president, Sir Philip - a former Paralympic wheelchair basketball player - also wants to see the word disability banished from the dictionary.

He said a combined Games would probably need to be extended, speculating it might be around three to three and a half weeks.

Under a "partnership agreement" signed by the IPC and the International Olympic Committee the Paralympics will follow on from the Olympics as a separate event until 2020.

But Sir Philip said a merger could be looked at after that time.

"I hope no one thinks that we're fine where we are and things can't change. Of course they can change."