Amidst the intense hype surrounding the Olympic events, many tend to overlook the ongoing Paralympics.This year, the competition is being held from August 24 to September 5, in Tokyo, Japan. The Paralympics consists of multi-sports events tailored to people with various disabilities. Ranging all the way from archery to wheelchair fencing, the Paralympics have it all, and more.
Introduced by Sir Ludwig Guttmann in 1948, the Paralympics started as an organized sports competition for World War II British veterans with spinal cord injuries. Following it, a second competition took place in 1952, where athletes from the Netherlands joined as well. 8 years later in 1960, the first quadrennial Olympic-style Games for disabled athletes were held in Rome. And, since the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, the Paralympics have routinely been held at the same venues as the Olympics. Moreover, although the Paralympics in 1960 hosted only 400 athletes participating in 8 sports, great progress has been made as Japan now prepares to host more than 4000 athletes and cover up to 22 sports.
Dedicated to improving accessibility for disabled athletes, the Paralympic events allow for the athletes’ assumed flaws to be showcased as some of their biggest strengths. For example, one of the sporting events in the Summer Paralympics includes wheelchair fencing, which shows athletes using strategies such as ducking and leaning to dodge their competitors’ touches without getting up. Moreover, in the Winter Paralympics, Para ice hockey is where athletes facing disabilities below the waist use sleds, in place of skates, to play the game and move around the rink. Over time, there have been many notable athletes in Paralympic history whose names have gone unnoticed by the greater public, when in fact they should have been looked up to. For instance, Trischa Zorn is one of the most successful swimmers in Paralympic history. Born blind, she has won 55 medals between 1980 and 2004. Another notable athlete is Swedish shooter Jonas Jacobsson. Despite being paralyzed from the waist down, Jacobsson has been a top-performing athlete, earning 30 medals within the span of 9 consecutive Paralympics. Both athletes, and many more, have helped revolutionize the world’s perspective on disabled people, and their immense potential to succeed.
As the host to the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, Japan has put in hard work and dedication to providing a warm welcome to all athletes and their countries. In order to prepare for a successful Paralympics event, for example, Japan has introduced several policies to make certain amenities accessible to Para athletes. For example, a key initiative is that further considerations are being made to review class allocation opportunities, which accommodates the severity of each athlete’s disability and the aid provided for it. Another important note is the focus being put towards wheelchair accessibility, with Barrier-free hotels helping to provide these amenities. Additionally, the numerous venues and transportations have also been prepared to support Para athletes. From braille menus to tripping hazards being rid of, Japan has taken many precautions this year to make this Paralympics as safe as possible.
While this year’s Paralympics may not be taking place in the most ideal situation, the hard work and effort put in by the athletes and workers cannot be ignored. The important message surrounding the Paralympics and its history will be seen at this year’s 2020 Paralympics in Japan, as we all try to overcome the harsh impacts of the coronavirus and spread positivity around the world.
Don’t forget to tune in and support all the athletes at the Paralympics, so that we can make this a memorable experience for everyone involved!
- Tokyo 2020