The Tokyo 2020 Games is expected to usher in a "new era" for Paralympic sports and serve to foster understanding in Japan of people with disabilities, the head of the International Paralympic Committee said Thursday.
"I really think that the Games will be a catalyst for a new era for Paralympic sports here in Japan, and also for the perception by Japanese society toward people with impairments," IPC President Andrew Parsons said in an interview with Kyodo News in Tokyo.
"I think this can be the biggest legacy," said the Brazilian, who succeeded Britain's Philip Craven to the position last month. Craven is also visiting Japan with Parsons.
Parsons said public awareness of sports by disabled athletes had grown "exponentially" in Brazil after the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Games, which he helped execute as the head of the Brazilian Paralympic Committee.
He said the event laid the groundwork "to influence the new generation of kids, of youngsters, about the perception they have on people with impairments."
"They are the future decision-makers of that country, so I am sure that when they take over from the current generation of leaders...we will have an even better situation for people with impairments."
Parsons and Craven were meeting with the organizing committee of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics after visiting South Korea, host of next year's Pyeongchang Winter Games. While there, Parsons discussed the possible participation of North Korea in the Games with South Korean President Moon Jae In.
Asked what path North Korea had to take to participate in Pyeongchang, Parsons said that if its athletes do not attend qualifying matches, "we also always have the possibility of granting them wildcards."
"We spent three days in (South) Korea, and it became clear to us how important it is for the South Korean government and for (the organizing committee) that we have a North Korean delegation there. It just requires a little bit of work and a little bit of communication with the North Korean Paralympic Committee."
Regarding the participation at Pyeongchang of Russia, which the IPC banned from competing after a 2016 report by the World Anti-Doping Agency found evidence of state-sponsored doping, Parsons said the IPC was waiting for the WADA board meeting next month to make a decision.
"We will not lift the suspension until they fulfill every step of the agreed roadmap. Our independent taskforce will assess the outcome of that meeting and then they will probably come with a set of recommendations. I expect that by mid-December we will have a clearer picture of that situation."
Asked if the IPC would consider letting Russian athletes compete on an individual basis, as the International Olympic Committee did at Rio, he answered, "This is something that is up to the IPC taskforce. I don't want to elaborate on different possibilities."
"It is not that long" until a decision will be made, he said.