By Ryusei Takahashi, staff writer
Sunday marked exactly one year until Tokyo becomes the first city to host the Paralympic Games twice.
Following close on the heels of the Olympics, the Paralympics will begin next year on Aug. 25 and, over the course of 13 days, feature a record 4,400 athletes in 540 events across 22 sports including, for the first time, badminton and taekwondo.
“Preparations are going extremely well. The venues look great,” said Duane Kale, vice president of the International Paralympic Committee, during the Paralympic Games “One Year to Go Countdown Ceremony” held in Shibuya Ward’s NHK Hall on Sunday. “As a Paralympian, I’m a little jealous.”
Kale believes the Paralympics could have a lasting impact on Tokyo — and Japanese society at large — long after the games have ended, and inspire political leaders to pursue inclusion and accessibility.
“All the ingredients for an outstanding Paralympics are coming together: the prospect of superb sport, stunning venues, billions of global TV viewers and millions of spectators.”
Applications for the first ticket lottery for the Paralympics began for Japanese residents on Thursday and will close Sept. 9, with results to be announced on Oct. 2.
A second lottery will be held early next year and an additional first-come, first-served sale is planned for later in the spring.
Tickets to the Paralympic Games sold out in Rio de Janeiro and London during the 2012 and 2016 games, respectively. The Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee aims to mirror that by making the tickets for the 2020 Paralympics more affordable and distributing them to schools in Tokyo and elsewhere.
“During our preparations for the 2020 Games, the Olympics and Paralympics have been treated as one event in the name of unity,” said Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori at Sunday’s countdown event. “The purpose of the 2020 Games is to create a stage on which everyone can shine.”
Earlier this month, officials announced a detailed schedule and ticket prices for next year’s Paralympics.
More than a third of the 300 sessions will feature medals events, 63 of which will be held on Aug. 30 — nicknamed “Golden Sunday” — while another 61 will take place on Sept. 1.
Tickets for competitive events will range from ¥900 to ¥7,000 while tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies will cost between ¥8,000 and ¥150,000.
According to the third and most recent budget for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games announced in December, the total cost for the Tokyo 2020 games will be $12.6 billion, $1.1 billion of which has been allocated for the Paralympic Games.
The first time Tokyo hosted the Paralympics was nearly 55 years ago during the 1964 Summer Olympics. Back then, the games began in October to avoid Tokyo’s infamous summer heat and humidity.
Next year, the games will start during one of the hottest periods of the year, something that has become a growing concern for athletes, coaches and spectators. Test events have already been held.
For the Paralympics, an additional concern is the lack of lodging.
Only about half of the wheelchair-accessible hotel rooms needed — for coaches, staff and members of the media — are currently available during the Paralympic Games.
Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike has repeatedly said that she will not consider the Tokyo 2020 Games a success if the Paralympics do not go smoothly.