Paralympics close to end Asia’s run at center of world sport | Olympics

Paralympics close to end Asia’s run at center of world sport | Olympics

BEIJING (AP) — The Winter Paralympics close on Sunday, ending an almost six-week run for international sports in the Chinese capital that began with the opening of the Winter Olympics on Feb. 4.

It also ends a run for Asia of hosting four of the last eight Olympics and Paralympics, starting with the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It’s unclear when sports’ largest stage will return to Asia.

The next Summer Olympics and Paralympics are in 2024 in Paris, followed by Winter Games in Milan-Cortina, Italy in 2026, and Los Angeles in 2028 with the Summer Games.

The earliest return to Asia looks like the 2030 Winter Olympics with Sapporo, Japan, a top contender. It was the Winter Games host in 1972.

The Paralympics opened just eight days after Russia — aided by Belarus — invaded Ukraine.

The International Paralympic Committee, after declining to bar Russian and Belarusian athletes, reversed course and removed their 83 athletes — 71 from Russia and 12 from Belarus.

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Ukraine, with only 20 athletes competing, finished second to China in the medal standings. Many overcame difficult journeys to make it and showed determination despite the war at home.

IPC President Andrew Parsons delivered an impassioned anti-war speech to open the Paralympics on March 4, speaking at Beijing’s Bird’s Nest national stadium with China’s President Xi Jinping also attending.

Parts of Parsons’ speech were not translated by China’s state-run broadcaster, and some of the audio was dropped. The IPC lodged a protest over what it said was likely censorship, but was told the silence was caused by an unexplained glitch.

China has declined to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the opening of the Olympics on Feb. 4, one of the few major world leaders to attend with Xi also in attendance.

The Winter Paralympics attracted just under 600 athletes, far fewer than the 2,900 who attended the Winter Olympics.

Both events were held under China’s severe COVID-19 restrictions, which required daily testing by athletes and others attending, with access limited to only hotels, venues and media centers.

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