TOKYO – Over 60 percent of leading athletes aiming to compete in next year’s Tokyo Paralympics are worried that public interest in disabled sports may wane once the world event is over, a survey by Kyodo News showed Saturday.
Sunday marks exactly one year to go until the Paralympics start. The survey was conducted between June and this month, and drew responses from 175 athletes across 22 Paralympics events.
Of the respondents, 134 athletes, or 77 percent, said they are worried about the future after the games close on Sept. 6, 2020.
Of them, 110, or 63 percent, said they are concerned the public’s attention will not be maintained, while 84, or 48 percent, cited fears they may lose support currently provided by the government, companies and other entities.
A male athlete in blind soccer said, “I’m worried whether (those entities) will continue to support us even after the games and whether disabled sports and athletes will be forgotten.”
Makoto Majima, a 48-year-old powerlifter, said he believes the Tokyo Paralympics can be successful if “support by companies, employment of (disabled) athletes, public interest and training facilities will not be decreased but sustained and increased even after the games.”
In the survey, many athletes expressed hope that their competing in the Paralympics themselves will help raise the profile of disabled sports.
A badminton player said, “I definitely want to take part in the games and get a medal so that the joy and greatness of para sports will be better known.”
Asked about issues that need to be tackled ahead of the start of the Tokyo Paralympics, 135, or 77 percent, of the respondents said efforts to enhance the para sports’ attractiveness are needed, while 98, or 56 percent, called for improving barrier-free access at transportation system and other public facilities.
Yuta Kawashima, a 24-year-old goalball player, said he believes that organizing events for people to experience para sports is a way to help convey their appeal and the feelings of the disabled.
Kimie Bessho, a 71-year-old wheelchair table tennis player, said she has found that only a few hotels actually provide barrier-free access.
Applications for the first round of the Tokyo Paralympic ticket lottery, open only to residents of Japan, started Thursday and will run through Sept. 9.
For the opening day, the organizer received 110,000 applicants for tickets, in contrast to 1.3 million for the Olympic Games.