Paralympic president clarifies Pistorius stance, looks to Rio

Oscar Pistorius, Alan Oliveira
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The International Paralympic Committee will celebrate its 25-year anniversary by looking to the future at a conference in Berlin next month. Before the event, IPC president Sir Philip Craven discussed topics in a phone interview, starting with the recent news concerning the world’s most famous Paralympian.

On Friday, Oscar Pistorius was convicted of culpable homicide in shooting and killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine’s Day 2013. Pistorius could face up to 15 years in prison on that charge, but there is no minimum prison sentence.

The IPC was asked after the verdict if Pistorius would be eligible to compete in the Paralympics again, and a spokesman said “we would not stand in his way.”

Craven clarified the IPC’s stance Monday.

“I think there’s been some misinterpretation of what was said,” Craven said. “The question was primarily one of a legal nature. If a number of processes do take place, the ones following the others, then there is, I suppose, an outside possibility that Oscar Pistorius could have an opportunity to compete in the Paralympic Games once again. I want to make it very clear here, to you, that never at any time have we, the IPC, intended to give the impression that we were promoting a comeback from Oscar Pistorius.”

Craven said the IPC is an “observer of the tragic process” that took place in South Africa and has had no contact with Pistorius, the first double amputee to run in the Olympics in 2012.

What’s closer to the forefront for the IPC is its 25-year anniversary and the Rio 2016 Paralympics.

In October, the IPC will hold a conference in Berlin to mark its 25th anniversary.

“We will consider the next 25 years at Berlin,” Craven said. “It’s a real opportunity for the members to meet together and talk over the opportunities for the future.”

Craven recently met with IOC president Thomas Bach and discussed, among other topics, the relationship between the IOC and the IPC when it comes to sponsorships and Bach’s upcoming Agenda 2020, a map for the future of the Olympic movement.

Much has changed since the Paralympic Summer Games were last held in the Western Hemisphere in 1996. Nearly 60 more nations and 1,000 more athletes competed in London than in Atlanta.

The Paralympic vision is “to enable Paralympic athletes to achieve sporting excellence and inspire and excite the world.” Craven said he wants to add one more word to that with the Rio Games — to inspire and excite the entire world.

“I see this as a big opportunity to bring Paralympic sport to the whole of the Americas,” Craven said of Rio, “continuing whether it was a roller coaster or a spaceship that took off in London [in 2012], or whether it took off in Beijing and took a massive boost in London.”

In particular, Craven remembered a moment at the London 2012 Paralympics. The track and field crowd became so loud at Olympic Stadium that British sprinter Jonnie Peacock had to ask for quiet before the start of a race.

The IPC president believes that the maturation of the Paralympics has shown that its schedule on the calendar, starting between two and three weeks after the Olympics, is the right spot.

“This concept now of a 60-day festival of sport, the Olympics followed by the Paralympics, is something that London and Sochi proved to be a great success,” Craven said.

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