The Paralympics starting next week in Tokyo are the "most important" in their history as they will allow the voices of people with disabilities to be heard during the coronavirus pandemic, the head of the International Paralympic Committee said Thursday.
Speaking at a press conference, IPC President Andrew Parsons also said the decision earlier this week to hold the games without spectators was the "best move" in response to increasing COVID-19 cases in Japan, and stressed that the sporting event involving up to about 4,400 athletes can be delivered safely.
Addressing reporters from his hotel in Tokyo ahead of the games' opening on Tuesday, Parsons said the Paralympics are the only major international event that puts people with disabilities on center stage, and will allow the world to notice what they have gone through during the health crisis.
"Persons with disabilities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic around the world," he said. "Different societies across the world have failed to protect them, have failed to provide them with the necessary services to protect them from the pandemic."
"We believe persons with disabilities have been left behind. That is why these games are not just important to have, but they are needed from the perspective of the 1.2 billion (disabled) persons around the world."
His remarks came just hours after the IPC announced a global campaign over the next decade in an attempt to end discrimination toward people with disabilities and promote their "visibility, accessibility and inclusion."
The global human rights movement, called "WeThe15," was created with multiple international organizations, including the International Disability Alliance and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, to initiate change by working with governments, businesses and the public, according to the IPC.
For the campaign, the name of which comes from the proportion of people with disabilities in the world's population, the IPC said it has also teamed up for the first time with three other sports bodies -- the Special Olympics, the Invictus Games Foundation and the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf.
As part of the movement, they have produced a 90-second film to be aired across various digital platforms, as well as TV channels in 60 countries, with the goal of reaching at least half a billion people by the end of September.
Starting from Thursday evening, more than 125 famous landmarks in the world will be illuminated in purple, a color symbolizing inclusivity, to celebrate the launch of the campaign.
The landmarks include Tokyo's Rainbow Bridge, New York's Empire State Building, Rome's Colosseum and Moscow's Ostankino Tower.