Tokyo Paralympics present opportunity to consider more inclusive society

The Tokyo Paralympic Games have kicked off amid the continued spread of the novel coronavirus. The 13-day event should be an opportunity to consider the Games’ concept of “achieving an inclusive society.”

A record about 4,400 athletes from about 160 countries and regions are scheduled to participate in the Games and compete in 539 events in 22 sports through Sept. 5. Some countries, including the South Pacific nations of Samoa and Tonga, decided not to participate due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Every athlete has trained hard to play on this stage. Athletes who cannot participate may feel disappointed, despite the inevitable situation.

About 250 athletes representing Japan will participate in all sports, the largest number ever. Triathlon athlete Mami Tani was chosen as a flag bearer for Japan’s delegation.

Tani, who had to have her right leg amputated due to illness, has overcome her situation through the power of sports. She was one of the key persons who in 2013 led Tokyo to a successful bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, speaking during the campaign about her experiences with her physical difficulties.

Paralympic athletes have all experienced numerous difficulties and setbacks. There must be much to learn from their dedicated attitude to perform at their best.

Although spectators are not allowed at any of the competition venues, commercial TV stations will broadcast some of the sports live for the first time, in addition to NHK. People are encouraged to give a big cheer to Paralympic athletes who are testing the limits of their ability.

On the other hand, there are persistent opinions opposing the school ticket program to provide students with opportunities to watch the competitions due to concerns over coronavirus infections. Although it is significant to have them see in person these athletes’ performances, the number of children infected with the virus is increasing.

Depending on the infection situation, flexible measures, such as switching to watching competitions on TV in classrooms, may be necessary.

During the Games, more than 10,000 athletes, officials and other related people are visiting Japan. The success of the Tokyo Games, including the Olympics, depends on whether the Paralympics can be held safely.

It is important to take more thorough coronavirus control measures by closing off the athletes village and competition venues from the outside world. As there are also sports held outdoors, every possible effort must be made to prepare for the heat.

Tokyo is the first city to host two Summer Paralympics, following the 1964 Games. In the time between, the number of athletes for Paralympic competitions has increased greatly in the world and the level of competition has also improved.

The Paralympics started as an extension of rehabilitation for the disabled. The technology to develop wheelchairs for sports and other purposes has also helped improve the equipment used by the elderly in their daily lives.

It is hoped that the Paralympics this time will be a step toward a society in which all people can respect each other regardless of factors such as their disability, gender and nationality.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Aug. 25, 2021.