Deaf athletes face uncertain future unless Paralympics opens its doors

Deaf athletes face uncertain future unless Paralympics opens its doors, claims organisation chief

Craig Crowley, the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (ICSD) President, has admitted he is worried for the future of deaf sport unless the disability is soon included at the Paralympic Games.

Crowley made his comments in the wake of news that his organisation has agreed to stage Deaflympics XXII in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, in 2013.

The Deaflympics, first held in Paris in 1924, are currently the most high profile event for deaf athletes.

But such athletes have never been a part of the Paralympic Games – and despite the ICSD’s discussions with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), no agreement has been reached for them to be included.

Crowley admits it presents an uncertain outlook for the Deaflympics but said the ICSD (pictured below, organisation’s logo) is working hard to help solve the problems it faces.

“Bulgaria, unfortunately, is one of the only places where there are facilities in place for us to host the event, so that is our focus right now,” Crowley told insideworldparasport at the SportAccord Convention in Québec City, Canada.

“But it remains a difficult situation for us in terms of staging the event regularly.

“Our goal is to reach out to other sports federations and build up our relationship with the IPC.

“But the ball is in their court in terms of how they will help us.

“I think if we can achieve our goal of joining the Paralympics, it will not only benefit deaf athletes but also the Paralympics in their goal to provide accessibility for all groups.”

He added: “Our talks are continuing with the IPC and it is important that we maintain our relationship with them.

“But there is still a long way to go, even though we are working hard.”

Crowley said he believes the Deaflympics will be able to survive as a standalone event without the Paralympics, but admitted it needs to become more visible to attract sponsors and, therefore, greater finances.

“I think the Deaflympics is sustainable long term as an isolated event, but at the moment we are going through rough waters,” he said.

“I’m sure even the Paralympics went through similar experiences years ago.

“We are at the stage they were several years ago.”

Crowley said: “Right now we are not getting the exposure we need and, therefore, we are not getting the sponsors we need.

“That is crucial because we want it to be a top event for our athletes.

“We don’t want to give our athletes a second-class experience.

“We want them to have the best facilities, which they deserve, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to provide them.

“So there are big challenges ahead for us.”

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