Capitalize on momentum created by Tokyo Paralympics

Last year’s Tokyo Paralympics increased public interest in sports for disabled people. This momentum must be utilized for the future.

It has been decided that the Summer Deaflympics, an international sporting event for hearing-impaired athletes, will be held in Tokyo in 2025. The Summer Deaflympics, governed by the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf, began in 1924 and has a longer history than the Paralympics.

More than 5,000 athletes from over 70 countries and regions are expected to participate in the Tokyo event.

The Paralympics are for the physically, visually and intellectually impaired, and they can participate with the use of prosthetics and other supports such as wheelchairs. On the other hand, athletes in the Deaflympics do not wear hearing aids or other devices.

Although the Deaflympics and Paralympics are held separately due to these differences in the nature of the competitions, both are major sports events held once every four years in both summer and winter. Japan won 30 medals at this year’s Summer Deaflympics held in Brazil. Another exciting competition is expected in Tokyo.

For the Tokyo Paralympics, many companies came forward to provide financial support to para-sports organizations. The central and local governments also held events at schools and other locations to have members of the public experience para-sports matches, hear lectures by para-athletes, and more.

Since the Tokyo Games, however, such support has been scaled back. Corporate sponsorship for the Japanese Para-Swimming Federation totaled only about ¥40 million this year, a 50% decrease from 2020.

The development of sports for the disabled should be a step toward the realization of a society without barriers between the disabled and able-bodied people. It would be a shame to see the interest that has grown in para-sports wane.

The central and local governments are urged to promote initiatives to make each para-sport more accessible to the public, such as by continuing to hold events with hands-on experiences. Efforts should also be made to find companies that support them.

Efforts on the part of para-sports organizations are also essential. The top league of five-a-side blind soccer, in which visually impaired players rely on the sound of a rolling ball, has been launched with sales of tickets to watch the game.

This attempt to explore a path to independence, rather than relying solely on support, could serve as a reference for other organizations. It is important to widely promote the appeal of each sport and expand the fan base.

It is also important to create an environment in which people with disabilities can casually enjoy sports in their own communities.

If the number of people playing para-sports increases, the production of even more talented para-athletes can be expected. Efforts should be made to train coaches and secure training sites in each region. The existence of athletes and teams that people want to support will also help to revitalize local communities.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 31, 2022)