IPC president Andrew Parsons speaks during the closing ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympic Games. GETTY IMAGES

In an interview with AFP, the International Paralympic Committee president Andrew Parsons forecasted the upcoming 2024 Games will help make a difference regarding the perception of disabled persons and push their issues and rights back atop the list of the global agenda.

"In the pandemic, they were really affected. Some of the health systems, even in big nations, were put to the test and they have failed people with disability," Parsons explained. "We’ll have spectators back, and this is a huge difference from Tokyo and Beijing."

With just 67 days to go until the Paris Games’ opening ceremony in the river Seine and a 100 until the Paralympics start, Parsons hopes that the next edition of the Paralympics will give the movement a much-needed boost, similar to the 2012 London Games. “They will have a big impact on how people with disability are perceived around the world. We do believe they have been left behind. There is very little debate about persons with disability," he underlined, citing gender identity as an example. "We are a sporting movement, but we're also a movement for change. So the more people we can attract to the Paralympic movement, they will find the sport amazing but at the same time they are attending an event that aims to change perceptions. We want to change the world, and you can only change the world if you change perceptions."

The key motive will no-doubt be the return to a modicum of normality after the Covid pandemic of 2020 forced both the Summer and Winter Games to be held in empty venues in Tokyo and Beijing, respectively, but Parsons also conceded that "there is a Paris effect, to be close to iconic landmarks, to have five-a-side football at the Eiffel Tower or taekwondo at the Grand Palais. The images that people will see around the world will be fantastic."

While Parsons admitted London 2012, with its full stadiums and global stars like Oscar Pistorius, "is still the benchmark for Paralympic sport", he is confident that the level of competition has increased in the 12 years since then. The IPC expects the TV audience for Paris to surpass the 4.1 billion who watched the Tokyo Paralympics, helped by kinder times for viewers in Europe and the Americas. "The sport that we have to show to the world is of a higher level, the movement has grown a lot. "We have more interest in Paralympic sport around the world," he stated. "When you see a sport like wheelchair basketball, they are playing faster now, the game is becoming more and more physical.”

Paris organisers launched an advertising campaign on Monday to boost sluggish ticket sales for the event, with only 300,000 purchased by the public so far. Another 600,000 have been taken by French public sector organisations and the Olympic and Paralympic committees, according to official figures, AFP reported. "In London, 1.2 million tickets were sold in the final two months and in Rio we sold two million tickets in eight weeks, so we know that we will sell more tickets closer to the Olympics and during the Olympics," Parsons detailed.

The organisation of the Olympic Games is often considered to leave a lasting and positive mark on host cities, yet another issue that arose during AFP’s interview was Paris’ metro system, which is notoriously inaccessible to wheelchair users. And French law actually makes matters worse, as it states that if one station is modified to make it accessible to disabled users, then all the stations on the line must follow suit. "In Rio in 2016, a few stations linked to the Games were made accessible, kind of like hubs. That cannot be done in Paris," Parsons admitted.

To partly compensate, a fleet of one thousand specially adapted taxis will be in operation, along with Paris' public buses, which descend to kerb level to allow wheelchair users to board easily.