‘This event actually looks and feels like the Paralympics, but with an even larger number of spectators. This is what the sport truly deserves.’
That is what we, as the organization of the World Para Archery Championships, heard from the Paralympic athletes who had just completed their World Championships. Held in the city center of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands. In that summer of 2019, an archery stadium sprung up in the heart of the city. The unique, centrally located site, in combination with the spectacular sport, ensured full stands. It was a wonderful experience for residents and visitors of the city, athletes, fans and the organization itself.
This experience, combined with learning moments gained during the para-cycling track & road World Championships that we organized before, made us realize that there is only one way to make parasport really successful. If you want to get the media and the public more interested in these spectacular sports, you must bring it out to the people. Offer the parasporters the same platform and treatment as all other athletes!
From that moment in 2019, we started desk research on all European Championships of a wide variety of Paralympic summer sports. We also envisaged a possible para variant of the European Championships, which were organized for the first time in Glasgow / Munich in 2018. Our investigation soon showed that the organization of parasport was characterized by an enormously fragmented landscape. The first challenge was clear: how could we unite the different world sports federations and European federations to achieve a successful multisport event?
Various parties and organizations involved subsequently joined our meetings & workshop to answer the above question. And of course, we wanted to prevent parties from being surprised by our initiative. In this way, a joint action plan was built.
We jointly foresaw the greatest chance of success in the summer of 2023, with the key requirement that there should be a relevant Paralympic link between our event and the Paralympic Games in Paris in 2024. The European Paralympic Committee embraced this and awarded us the status of ‘regional games’. This implied that the event could become a European equivalent of the Asian Para Games and the Parapan-American Games. Not only in 2023 but also in the longer term. What followed was a race against time, to finally be able to say with immense pride that ten different European Championships will take place in the heart of Rotterdam in 2023, combined in one multisport event: the European Para Championships! We are immensely looking forward to hosting the top athletes and facilitating them on their way to Paris 2024.
And of course, this will not stop after the summer of 2023. In 2027, 2031 and beyond, this event will move to another major European (capital) city. The various international associations are very enthusiastic and next summer we will repay that trust with a top event, realized with the Dutch approach. We are looking forward to launching this concept next summer and making a real impact for parasport.
The European Para Championships 2023 are just the start of a journey with an unknown but limitless destination for parasports!
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