MOUNT DESERT — A decision by the International Paralympic Committee to drop sailing from the 2020 Paralymic Games in Tokyo has whipped up a maelstrom of international protest.
Early this month, the IPC announced that sailing would not be included in the 2020 games largely because the sport lacked widespread international participation and support but suggested that its decision was not final.
“The IPC Governing Board is willing to reward robust athlete participation and good sport governance,” the committee wrote in announcing its decision. “Herein lies an opportunity for sailing to regroup, reform, rejuvenate and return with an improved proposition when we launch the next review cycle in 2018.”
Sir Philip Craven, president of the IPC, claimed that sailing and seven-side football (soccer) were dropped because they did not meet the “minimum criteria for worldwide reach.”
“That is wrong! They’re wrong about that,” Northeast Harbor resident and two-time Paralympics medalist Tom Brown said Tuesday.
Brown, a longtime Maine Maritime Academy sailing coach, won the silver medal in the solo, 2.4-meter class at the Athens Paralympics in 2004. Four years earlier, he won the bronze medal in Sydney, Australia. In 2012, Brown crewed aboard a three-man keelboat in the Paralympic Games in England
According to Brown, international participation in competitive disabled sailing is “huge,” although some countries’ programs “aren’t up to snuff, but they’re working on that.”
Over the next six months, disabled sailing championship regattas are scheduled in New Zealand, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Australia.
Within hours of the IPC announcement, competitive sailors from around the world, both disabled and able-bodied, took to the Internet to protest the decision.
As of Tuesday, the Facebook page Reinstate Paralympic Sailing into 2020 Games had drawn some 12,627 likes. The Twitter petition #Reinstate Sailing for Tokyo Paralympics has more than 14,000 signatures. A petition on the Change.org site had gathered nearly 16,000 signatures by Tuesday afternoon.
In Great Britain, solo circumnavigator Sir Robin Knox-Johnson, 2012 Paralympic sailing gold medalist Helena Lucas and the Royal Yachting Association are leading the charge to have sailing reinstated.
On Monday, the International Sailing Federation (ISAF), sailing’s governing body in the United States, announced that it would join with the International Association for Disabled Sailing (IFDS) to take a leading role in the effort to persuade the IPC to restore sailing to the Tokyo games.