Mar 4, 2022 - Sports

What to watch as the Paralympics get underway

Data: IPC; Chart: Baidi Wang/Axios

The 13th Winter Paralympics began Friday in Beijing with two fewer competing nations than expected.

The backdrop: The IPC on Thursday banned all Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Games, reversing its previous decision that would have allowed them to compete under the neutral Paralympic flag.

  • "The environment in the village is deteriorating," IPC president Andrew Parsons told NYT, citing the athlete anger and boycott threats that led to the reversal.

The other side: "[The] decision ... to bar our team is a blatant violation of athletes' rights," said Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin.

The intrigue: Coming off the most-watched Paralympics ever in Tokyo, NBC will air the Winter Paralympics in primetime for the first time ever. That, plus the political climate, could draw similar record viewership.

Details: 736 athletes representing a record 49 delegations will compete in Beijing, including Team USA star Oksana Masters, who was born in Ukraine.

  • Paralympians will live in the same athletes' village that hosted Olympians last month, which has been upgraded to meet all accessibility requirements.
  • Six venues in Beijing, Yanqing and Zhangjiakou will host 78 medal events across six sports: alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, biathlon, sled hockey, snowboarding and wheelchair curling.
  • Three delegations are making their Winter Paralympics debut (Azerbaijan, Israel, Puerto Rico), and three more are back after lengthy absences (Liechtenstein, Estonia, Latvia).
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