With the International Paralympic Committee announcing that both Russian and Belarusian athletes will be banned from competing in the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics, Michael McEwan discusses what we can expect from this year's Games.
The Winter Paralympics are underway is Beijing, which welcomed around 600 of the world's best athletes for the opening ceremony on Friday 4th March.
The Games will take place over 10 days, with athletes competing in 78 different events across six sports in two disciplines. Among these are snow sports, including alpine skiing, cross country skiing, snowboarding and biathlon, and ice sports such as ice hockey and wheelchair curling.
These events will be staged at six venues in three competition zones: Beijing, Yanqing and Zhangjakou. Venues include the National Indoor Stadium and the National Aquatic Centre, both of which are legacy venues from the 2008 Olympics and Paralympics.
So far, Team GB, has won five medals. One gold, one silver and three bronze.
Russian and Belarusian athletes banned from taking part in the Games
The games have already met with controversy after the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) announced that Russian and Belarusian athletes will be banned from taking part in the Games.
The decision comes as multiple Paralympic committees from other countries wrote to the IPC threatening to leave Beijing without competing.
Initially, the IPC said Russian and Belarusian athletes could compete under a neutral Paralympic flag and would not be included in the medal table. But IPC president Andrew Parsons said this option became “untenable” after the situation in the athlete’s village escalated.
“Ensuring the safety and security of athletes is of paramount importance to us,” he said. “With this in mind, and in order to preserve the integrity of these games, and the safety of all participants, we have decided to refuse the athlete entries from RPC and NPC Belarus.”
The move is the latest of multiple sanctions being imposed on Russia after the country invaded Ukraine last week. By banning Russia from competing in international sporting events (as well as imposing economic and political sanctions), ally countries hope to alienate the Russian population from president Putin and undermine his power.
Around 600 athletes are due to compete in the Games
Around 600 para athletes will compete in the Games in 78 medals events. In addition to having 39 medals events for men, 35 events for women and four mixed events, there will be a maximum of 222 slots available for women.
The Para alpine skiing programme will feature 30 medals events (15 male and 15 female), and there will be slots for 140 men and 80 women, which represents a 7.7 per cent and 33.3 per cent growth respectively on the number of slots offered at the Winter Paralympics in 2018.
Snowboarding, which made its debut at Sochi in 2014, will feature eight medal events. The woman's programme, which had provisionally included six events will compete in two medal events.
In ice hockey, eight teams will take to the ice at the National Indoor Stadium where the USA hope to win a fourth successive title.
After its successful expansion in 2018 where China won a first para winter gold, wheelchair curling will feature 12 mixed gender teams, with each team required to include at least one female player.
The wheelchair curling competition will take place in the iconic water cube, which has recently undergone a transformation after being used for para swimming during the 2008 Paralympics.
Team GB has announced one of the biggest teams ever to compete in the Paralympics
The first Winter Paralympics took place in 1976 in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, with events in both alpine and cross-country skiing for amputees and visually impaired athletes. Great Britain sent a team of six athletes, all male, to those Games.
Now, Team GB has announced one of the biggest teams ever to compete at the Games. The 20 selected individuals are due to compete in the alpine skiing, Nordic skiing (biathlon and cross country) snowboarding, and wheelchair curling.
This year's line-up is mixed, encouragingly, and will see the following athletes compete:
- Alpine skiing: Shona Brownlee (Livingston), Menna Fitzpatrick (Macclesfield), Millie Knight (Canterbury), Dan Sheen (Ellesmere Port), Neil Simpson (Banchory), Alex Slegg (Amesbury), James Whitley (Wilmington).
- Nordic skiing: Steve Arnold (Hampshire), Callum Deboys (Kirkmichael), Hope Gordon (Golspie), Scott Meenagh (Cumbernauld), Steve Thomas (Ogmore Valley).
- Snowboarding: James Barnes-Miller (Broadstairs), Ollie Hill (Reading), Andy MacLeod (Stirling), Owen Pick (Bury St Edmunds).
Channel 4 will have an entire disabled presenting team
In a global first for a broadcaster, Channel 4 will have an entire disabled presenting team for a world class sporting event.
They will bring over 80 hours of live coverage and present the Games live from Beijing on Channel 4, plus streaming on C4’s YouTube platform.
Michael McEwan is a disability campaigner and freelance journalist.