Wednesday, September 22, 2021

international

Athletes assemble in Tokyo as Paralympics commence


The 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games began Tuesday night with the opening ceremony at the National Stadium.

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A total of 539 events in 22 para sports will take place over the 12-day period from Wednesday to Sept. 5.

According to the International Paralympic Committee, a total of 161 countries and regions, plus the Refugee Paralympic Team, are participating. This is the second-largest number after the 2012 London Paralympics, in which 164 countries and regions participated.

About 4,500 para athletes are expected to compete. As of Sunday, Japan’s team comprised 254 people, its highest number ever.

People related to Afghanistan, which withdrew from the Paralympics due to the fraught domestic situation in that country, participated in the opening ceremony bearing the Afghan flag.

“We’ve always said the Tokyo Games won’t be successful unless the Paralympics are a success,” Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, said at a press conference Monday.

Hashimoto stressed that thorough measures would be taken against the coronavirus. “We’ll do everything we can, so the public can feel safe and secure,” she said.

IPC President Andrew Parsons said: “One of the questions I am asked very often is, ‘Can we have safe Games?’ and the answer is yes, we would not be here if we did not believe we could deliver safe Games.”

■ Raising awareness

Para sports organizations are putting their all into the Tokyo Paralympics, hoping to use these Games to promote their respective sports.

“I want to see an event open to everyone,” Hidetaka Sugimura, a leading player on the Japanese boccia team, said about his dream of organizing an event in which anyone can participate.

Japan won the first silver medal in boccia at the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016. In this sport, para athletes throw balls toward a white target ball.

“It can be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of gender, age or degree of disability,” said Sugimura, 39. He is aiming to win a gold medal to further promote the sport and realize an event in which all sorts of people can participate.

Japan will make its first appearance in blind soccer at the Tokyo Games. Japan’s blind soccer para athletes will wear the same jersey as the men’s U-24 team and the Nadeshiko Japan women’s team, as a symbol of unity between the Olympics and Paralympics.

Team Japan aims to win at least a bronze medal — finishing better than the Japanese men’s team at the Olympics, which finished fourth — to help gain public recognition for blind soccer.

The sport requires verbal communication skills to support team members, and this element is being utilized in corporate training programs. In 2012, the Japan Blind Football Association started full-fledged efforts to assist education programs at companies, and has received many applications from a wide range of businesses.

The association wants to widen the scope of such activities with a strong finish at the Paralympics.

Published : August 25, 2021

By : The Japan News/ANN