By Masoud Hossein

World will miss Siamand Rahman: IPC spokesman

August 23, 2021 - 18:17

TOKYO - The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) spokesman Craig Spence says that not only the Iranian people but also sports fans across the world miss powerlifting legend Siamand Rahman.

In an exclusive interview with Tehran Times, Spence paid tribute to Rahman and said that his world record may take decades until it is beaten.

He also talked about the 2020 Paralympic Games, where Japan prepares to hold the event in the best possible way.

Tehran Times: International Paralympic Committee has been always successful in holding the greatest event for the people with disability. Do you think the Tokyo 2020 can be successful again regarding the COVID-19 restrictions?

Craig Spence: I think the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games can be extremely successful.  Prior to the pandemic, Tokyo 2020 has generated record awareness and interest in the Paralympic Games, even surpassing London 2012. The demand for Paralympic tickets was twice that of London 2012.

Despite having no spectators, the Games will still have a significant impact globally.  The Games will be viewed in a record 150 countries, reaching an estimated cumulative TV audience of 4.25 billion, this is more than ever before. With record TV audiences expected, they can look forward to watching tremendous sport as our athletes always deliver outstanding performances. These performances will help change attitudes towards disability globally, and combined with the efforts of the WeThe15 campaign (which aims to end discrimination towards persons with disabilities) will create greater opportunities for the world’s 1.2 billion persons with disabilities who make up 15% of the global population.

Q: Three athletes Siamand Rahman, Bahman Golbarnejhad and Razieh Shirmohammadi, who represented Iran at 2016 Rio, have passed away. Rahman was going to make splash once again in Tokyo. I think his absence could be a huge blow to Iran delegation and the world’s as well.

A: We will really miss all three athletes at these Games and our thoughts during Tokyo 2020 will be with the families of the deceased.  All three were great ambassadors for the Paralympic Movement and, in the case of Siamand Rahman, a global star who will not just be missed by the Iranian delegation but sport fans across the world. What Siamand delivered at Rio 2016 with his world record lift was truly astonishing, his world record may take decades until it is beaten. In the same way people talk about Usain Bolt’s 100m world record from Berlin, people will always remember Siamand’s world record from Rio. It was a magical sporting moment. I will miss his presence greatly.   

Q: The spectators will not be allowed to the venues. The decision was announced after a meeting with IPC president Andrew Parsons, organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa. Is this a setback?

A: Of course we would have loved to have full venues here at Tokyo 2020 and the Organizing Committee before the pandemic was on course to sell every single ticket. However, we are realistic, and the health and welfare of everybody during this pandemic is a priority. If this means we are not allowed spectators then so be it, it’s a decision we respect.  We knew it was unlikely we would have spectators so Monday’s decision was not a surprise.  We are excited however that more people than ever before are likely to watch on TV, especially here in Japan where NHK will be broadcasting more than 500 hours of coverage.

Q: The Tokyo Paralympic Games will be held with 4,400 athletes. What the strategies do you have for the next edition in Paris 2024 to normalize the condition?

A: We are expecting 4,400 to take part at Tokyo 2020, this is the most athletes we have ever had at the Paralympic Games. At Rio 2016 we had 4,328 athletes. To achieve a record number of athletes during a pandemic is testament to the outstanding work of National Paralympic Committees and International Federations.

Q: President of International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach hailed “unprecedented 2020 Olympics” after the end of the Games. Can Paralympics 2020 be an extraordinary event?

 A: Every Paralympic Games is an extraordinary event. Tokyo 2020 is the most important Paralympic Games in the Paralympic Movement’s history because of the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on persons with disabilities around the world. These Games will be very special.

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