Tokyo Paralympic Games encourage people to face, overcome difficulties

The curtain has come down on the Tokyo Paralympic Games, which returned to the capital for the first time in 57 years. While the world was facing the unprecedented crisis of the novel coronavirus pandemic, it is highly significant that Tokyo was able to host the sports extravaganza without major incident.

At the Games, athletes from all over the world with various disabilities defied the possibilities and competed with strength and skill. Their performances have impressed many people.

Fourteen-year-old Miyuki Yamada, who won two silver medals in the women’s backstroke, was born without both arms and has legs of different lengths. In addition to training her kicking strength, Yamada persistently practiced to maintain her balance, becoming the youngest medalist in Japan’s Paralympic history including both summer and winter games.

The smile she showed after the races must have inspired many people with the courage to face adversity.

The Games were postponed for one year due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus and there were times when the holding of the Games was in question. The Japan team, however, achieved more success than in the previous Rio de Janeiro Paralympics, which ended with no gold medals for Japan.

Regardless of whether they won a medal, the athletes from each county and region overcame difficulty through hard work and ingenuity, and demonstrated their strength amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They deserve hearty applause.

In preparation for the Tokyo Games, the central government had been increasing its subsidies to para sports organizations. The number of companies supporting the athletes through employment and other means has also increased. However, there are concerns that the subsidies will be drastically reduced or that support will be scaled back after the Games.

For many para athletes, sports have become a driving force to overcome hardships. A mechanism to continue to support them must be considered.

In conjunction with the Games, the International Paralympic Committee has called for the realization of an inclusive society in which the 1.2 billion people with disabilities, or 15% of the world’s population, can live without discrimination.

During the events, a variety of people supported the athletes, who expressed their gratitude for the support after competing in events. It is important to recognize diversity and further cultivate a mentality of mutual support.

The challenges from this point forward will be how to deal with such issues as who will shoulder the increased cost of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics due to the one-year postponement and COVID-19 measures and coming up with ways to use newly built competition venues.

The venues will be used as training bases for each sport, but they require maintenance and operational costs, and many are expected to run deficits. In order to prevent the venues from becoming a negative legacy, an effective way to use them must be explored while seeking the cooperation of the private sector.

Throughout the Games, no major cluster infection occurred, and Japan fulfilled its responsibility as the host nation in this regard. At the Winter Games in Beijing, which will be held in six months’ time, it is encouraged that the infection control know-how acquired at the Tokyo Games will be utilized to ensure the safe operation of the Beijing Games.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Sept. 6, 2021.