Video courtesy of Salvatore Cimmino.

When Malaysia did not provide the necessary guarantees that Israeli Para swimmers could participate, free from discrimination, and safely in the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships scheduled to be held in Kuching between July 29th and August 4th, the International Paralympic Committee Governing Board rescinded its decision to allow Malaysia to host the championships that had expected over 600 swimmers from 60 countries to participate.

Israeli athletes could not receive any visas and other procedural issues and protocols covering anthems and flags were called into question.

IPC President Andrew Parsons explained the decision, “All World Championships must be open to all eligible athletes and nations to compete safely and free from discrimination. When a host country excludes athletes from a particular nation, for political reasons, then we have absolutely no alternative but to look for a new Championships host.

The Paralympic Movement has, and always will be, motivated by a desire to drive inclusion, not exclusion. Regardless of the countries involved in this matter, the IPC would take the same decision again if it was to face a similar situation involving different countries.

In September 2017 when the IPC signed the contract with the Paralympic Council of Malaysia (NPC Malaysia) to host the World Para Swimming Championships, we had assurances that all eligible athletes and countries would be allowed to participate in the event with their safety assured.

Since then, there has been a change of political leadership and the new Malaysian government has different ideas. Politics and sport are never a good mix and we are disappointed that Israeli athletes would not have been allowed to compete in Malaysia.”

As a result, the IPC will have a new host and location for the Championships that acts as a qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

Chelsey Gotell, Chairperson of the IPC Athletes’ Council, told of the global support for this decision, “The IPC Athletes’ Council has received a great deal of correspondence from athletes around the world on this situation. We have discussed all potential outcomes and engaged with the World Para Swimming Athlete Advisory Group to gather their feedback on the situation to ensure the athlete voice was well reflected in the IPC Governing Board discussion and decision.

Not only does this decision stress the importance of keeping sport and politics separate, but it also reinforces the IPC’s commitment to our fundamental moral and ethical principles that encompass inclusivity of all eligible Para athletes and nations to compete at IPC sanctioned events.”

With so many Para swimmers involved in aquatic sports globally, including at thousands of competitive local, regional and national open water swims, this publication strongly supports the decision by the International Paralympic Committee.

Swimming Canada CEO Ahmed El-Awadi spoke eloquently of Canada’s perspective, “We applaud the International Paralympic Committee and World Para Swimming for making the right decision to be inclusive of all athletes who meet the IPC sport rules. We support the decision to change venues and look forward to our athletes representing Canada in the spirit of sport how it was intended.

Inclusivity is at the core of Canadian culture and Swimming Canada is an inclusive organization built on a foundation of integrity and respect. We believe all athletes, coaches, officials and volunteers have the right to participate in a safe and inclusive training and competitive environment that is free of discrimination. We welcome the full participation of all individuals, irrespective of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, or creed.

We are happy that those values are being respected globally. With our fully integrated Canadian Swimming Trials set for April in Toronto, our Para-swimmers can focus on doing what they do best.”

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