On Friday 19 November 2021 the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) released the Paris 2024 medal events and sports programme in which it detailed that wheelchair basketball would be represented by an 8 men’s team tournament and 8 women’s team tournament.
The International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) is disappointed by the reduction of four teams in the men’s competition and two teams in the women’s competition from the sports programme at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Whilst IWBF commends the addition of events for women and for athletes with high support needs across the wider Summer Paralympic Games programme, this has come at a considerable cost to wheelchair basketball players and nations. The loss of seventy-two (72) players from wheelchair basketball at the Paralympic Games, notably twenty-four (24) female players, will have major implications to the sport of wheelchair basketball and many of its national programmes.
IWBF was informed of the IPC Governing Board’s decision less than 24 hours before the announcement was published and were not involved in the decision-making process, nor approached by the IPC for consultation prior to being notified.
IWBF President Ulf Mehrens said:
“It is obviously very disappointing to receive such a reduction. To have team numbers reduced by almost one third clearly limits the opportunities for wheelchair basketball nations to reach the Summer Paralympic Games and is a setback to the development of the sport that is driven by the players’ ultimate goal to participate in the Paralympic Games.
“The impact of this decision is far-reaching and IWBF will now need to consider how we move forward to preserve our values of universality and inclusivity by providing opportunities for teams across the world to compete at the highest level.
“As we were unaware of the IPC’s intention to reduce the numbers for wheelchair basketball at Paris 2024, we will now start the process of developing an appropriate qualification system and investigate how we can strengthen our wider programme of competition. The voice of our membership will be extremely important as we consider all options for the future structure of wheelchair basketball competitions and the effect that this decision will have within our Zones.”
The matter was discussed by the IWBF Executive Council in an online meeting over the past weekend (Friday 19 and Saturday 20 November 2021) and a working group was established to assess and develop a strategy following this decision.