Johan Strid is the Secretary General of the Swedish Paralympic Committee (SPC). Here, he describes his thoughts on “Stockholm Åre 2026”, what it would mean for the Paralympic Movement in Sweden, and, more broadly, a Winter Olympics and Paralympics that Sweden is clearly ready to host.
“We (the Swedish Paralympic Committee) have been more positive about this than anyone else throughout this whole journey” says Strid.
With the Stockholm Are 2026 candidacy officially announced last month, there is growing interest around the prospect of Sweden hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in 2026 and what this would mean for the Paralympic Movement across the country.
”First and foremost, it allows us to raise awareness and increase interest in Paralympic sport,” explains Strid. ”This allows us to recruit more people with disabilities into sports, which is the biggest challenge we have. The perception from our target groups is often that sport is harder than it actually is, and this is where role models play an important role.”
He continues: ”Hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games on home soil means we can build up role models and from there we can create programmes to encourage more people to do physical activity, hopefully inspiring them to participate in sports and perhaps even to reach Paralympic levels.”
Some seven years remain until the start of the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games 2026 – and Strid emphasises that there is still ’a lot of work ahead’, with every day of the build-up to the games making a difference.
He’s explains that, if Sweden is awarded the Winter Games in June 2019, it would bring a positive impact for the Paralympic Movement in the nation, and internationally.
”The biggest difference would be that we would experience much more media focus than we are today. Interest in parasport is growing, both in Sweden and around the world. Hosting the Winter Games in Sweden would mean we can push that development even harder.”
He adds: ”This would also put pressure on us on a purely sporting level. We would need to be well prepared in order to have many potential medallists in 2026, which of course makes the whole process even more fun. We usually have a hard time recruiting talent into sport in general, and even more so into winter sports. It’s not usually a great combination to be visually impaired or be wheelchair-bound and going out into the snow and winter weather.”
One of Strid’s objectives is to make parasport more accessible to all – and for those curious about the movement, information is very easy to come by.
“Most parasports actually take place in ’regular’ sports clubs. However, we’ve launched a very exciting new programme with our partner Toyota called ’Start Your Impossible Camp’. It allows participants to try out different parasports over a weekend across the country, and at the same time meet the associations responsible for those sports. We believe it will be a small step towards finding something that is a good fit and fun, to getting more involved and committed and eventually finding a club to join.”
The upcoming parasport calendar is full of exciting events, both in Sweden and abroad.
Strid continues: “Recently, we hosted the World Para Nordic Skiing World Cup in Östersund where our very own Zebastian Modin triumphed over the competition. It was great to see him do so well – he’s a great skier! In parallel to the World Cup, there will be a three-nation competition in Para Ice Hockey.
”There are more competitions after that. We have the World Cup finals in Para Snowboarding in Klövsjö coming up in a month or two, which of course is a major highlight in the winter sports calendar. Then at the end of April, we will head to the World Para Ice Hockey Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic, where Sweden will face some great sporting challenges.”
Strid explains that the Paralympic Movement in Sweden is stronger than ever, with major events already on the horizon – and the Special Olympics World Winter Games on the calendar for 2021.
”By and large, we’re doing really well. We’re developing our sports and reaching our target groups well. Our biggest challenge is to actually organise ourselves in order to best handle all our commitments and ensure that there’s a sporting development path for all.”
“The Parasports Federation will host the Special Olympics World Winter Games in 2021. These are about sport and joy for people with intellectual disabilities. The Special Olympics have a different logic to the Paralympics – here, one can participate regardless of athletic ability.
”In the Paralympics, there are clear medical classifications to determine the level of impairment, called sport classes, within the same sport. However, in the Special Olympics, the medical classification is based clearly on intellectual disability.
”It’s an amazing event and one that I truly believe the Swedish sports movement can learn from in terms of children and youth sport, where everyone can participate and everyone tries their best.”
He adds: ”At the last Special Olympics, there were 106 participating nations and an estimated 2000 athletes, 1000 officials and 3000 volunteers. So Östersund and Åre 2021 will be a hugely impactful event.”