International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) President Jannie Hammershoi has expressed her support for the decision to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe and International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach agreed yesterday to delay the Olympic and Paralympic Games until no later than the summer of 2021 in response to growing worldwide concern over the coronavirus pandemic.
There have now been more than 20,000 COVID-19 deaths across the world, and strict travel restrictions and lockdown orders are in place in many countries, making it hard for athletes to train.
Dozens of sporting events – including Paralympic qualifiers – have been postponed or cancelled as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
"Over the last few weeks and months the global sports calendar has more or less completely stopped and more and more countries are asking their citizens to stay at home," Hammershoi said.
"The effects of this on the athlete community has been profound.
"Many cannot train properly and have been denied the chance to compete as we all try to do our bit to slow the spread of coronavirus and protect the vulnerable.
"I have been struck at how many athletes have been keen to put the health and well-being of their communities ahead of their own competitive ambitions.
"It has been truly awe-inspiring to witness.
"It is, however, clear that we have some way to go yet until we can say that we have overcome this horrible virus.
"The decision, therefore, to postpone Tokyo 2020 until 2021 is the right one, for everyone."
International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons described postponing Tokyo 2020 as "absolutely the right thing to do".
Hammershoi said that when the Paralympic Games officially open next year, it will be an "even bigger platform to show the world what can be achieved when the values of courage, determination, inspiration and equality continue to burn bright in the hearts of Para-athletes".
"I thank the International Paralympic Committee for their support and advocacy for Para-athletes during this time," she added.
"We will now be awaiting further guidance on what our next steps should be to prepare in the best way for the new arrangements, and will communicate with all our stakeholders when we know more.
"I would like to reassure all athletes and IBSA members that we will continue to work hard to ensure that the Paralympic Games in 2021 will be a tremendous success.
"I am confident that the Games will still go down in history as one of the best.
"Take care of yourselves and stay safe."
The Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) has also welcomed the decision to postpone Tokyo 2020, saying that "it is a big relief for athletes who were in a dilemma for their competitive preparation for the Paralympics".
"PCI will also now be in a better position of planning the next step once this current lockdown in India in the wake of COVID-19 is finally lifted," PCI secretary general Gursharan Singh said.
"NPC (National Paralympic Committee) India along with NOC (National Olympic Committee) India welcomes the IOC and Tokyo 2020 LOC‘s (Local Organising Committee's) decision for a one-year postponement of the said Games."
PCI President Deepa Malik said that the "health of the athletes will always be our top priority".