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The Parasapo Projects Bringing Change to Japan in Advance of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics are coming up next year! Expectations are high for both the Olympics and Paralympics, what with the enormous success of the London and Rio games. Here at the Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center (Parasapo), we’ve been using the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics movement to implement projects to realize a diverse and inclusive society. Now that it has been four years since the establishment of Parasapo on May 15, 2015, we’d like to take a look back at the trajectory of the major projects that we’ve implemented so far.

Part 1: Parasapo is Born!

The press conference for the opening of the office was held on a colorful stage, with the theme “i enjoy! Fun is Strength”

The Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center (Parasapo) was established in May 2015 with the support of the Nippon Foundation, under the slogan, “Bringing change to Japan through the Paralympics.” In November of the same year, a joint office for Parasapo and the various Paralympic sports associations was established on the fourth floor of the Nippon Foundation building. The establishment of this office meant a consolidation of these associations’ business offices—which were previously scattered in various areas—and the provision of working spaces and back office services like contributions of subsidies, accounting services, translation services, etc.

29 associations enter the joint office
(26 summer sports and 3 winter sports as of May 2019)

Part 2: The Nippon Foundation Para Arena, a Gymnasium Specifically for Parasports, is Opened to the Public

The Para Arena is located within the grounds of the Museum of Maritime Science, which is in the Rinkai Fukutoshin area of Tokyo.

The Nippon Foundation Para Arena was opened in June 2018 in response to concerns voiced by para-athletes as to the relative lack of facilities for parasports. The Para Arena is a gymnasium specifically for parasports, meant to help para-athletes secure proper training environments, and act as a venue for parasport workshops and educational events.

95.4% annual occupancy rate
Approximately 10,000 users
254 mentions/coverage in the media
(TV: 8 / Newspaper: 41 / Magazines: 9 / Web: 196)
Data from June 2016 – March 2019

Part 3: Parasports Festival Emerges as New Way to Experience and Get Involved in Parasports!

Photo by Hisashi Okamoto
The Asuchalle! Field Day Japan Champion Tournament was a battleground, with many intense, high-level matches.

Parasports may seem daunting at first to beginners. What kind of sports are there? What kind of rules? But the great thing about parasports is how easily it sucks in the people who do get to experience it. Here at Parasapo, we wanted more people to get to know the fun and depth involved in parasports, and in 2017, established a “Field Day” program where teams could compete amongst each other in various parasports. In 2018, we also hosted Japan’s very first Cross-Country Japan Parasports Festival as an FY2018 Japan Sports Agency Commissioned Project.

The Cross-Country Japan Parasports Festival is held, featuring 7 blocks in areas throughout Japan
(1,700 participants)

Asuchalle! Field Day Japan Champion Tournament is held to determine the Japan champion team for parasports
(7 block champions + 1 guest team, for a total of 8 teams)

Part 4: Parasport Workshops are Held to Communicate the Values of the Movement

The press conference featured the then-Minister for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games Toshiaki Endo, Japan Sports Agency Commissioner Daichi Suzuki, etc.

2016 marked the beginning of the “Asuchalle! School” parasport workshops, wherein para-athletes are deployed to elementary, middle, and high schools throughout the country to convey the appeal and value of parasports, and provide an opportunity to learn about inclusive societies. This project has provided an invaluable learning experience for children, in that they get to hear directly from Paralympians and para-athletes, and has earned great feedback not only from the children involved, but from their guardians as well.

Asuchalle! School is held in 47 prefectures, and the workshop is offered to a total of 100,000 elementary, middle, and high school students

Part 5: Three Major Events to Help Popularize Parasports

The parasport event Para Ekiden in Tokyo 2018 was held at the Komazawa Olympic Park General Sports Ground and its jogging course.

We have hosted the Para Ekiden since 2015, and ParaFes since 2016, in order to make parasports feel more accessible and enjoyable to the general public. The Para Ekiden is a new kind of parasport event, one in which everyone—even able-bodied people—work together as racers, spectators, and volunteers to have fun and engage in healthy competition. ParaFes is also a new, revolutionary kind of event that combines sports and music, featuring performances by para-athletes and live performances by top artists. We also periodically host the “i enjoy! Para-Sports Park” event, which allows people to come in contact with and enjoy parasports in a more casual fashion. More than 100,000 people total have participated in these events.

Approximately 105,000 people participate in our parasport promotion events

Para Ekiden: 60,000 people
(2015: 14,200 / 2017: 11,200 / 2018: 17,100 / 2019: 17,500)

ParaFes: 15,300
(2016: 5,000 / 2017: 4,300 / 2018: 6,000)

i enjoy! Para-Sports Park: 30,200
(2016: 2,300 / 2017: 6,300 / 2018: 21,600)

Part 6: A Series of Innovative Publications to Bring in More Parasport Fans

The press conference for the “I’mPOSSIBLE” toolkit, recognized officially by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), was attended by the then-President of the IPC, Philip Craven, and more.

In 2017, the Agitos Foundation and the Japanese Paralympic Committee came together to develop a Japanese version of the official International Paralympic Committee (IPC) “I’mPOSSIBLE” toolkit, and began distribution of the elementary school version of the toolkit (first edition). The same year, we welcomed photographer Mika Ninagawa as Creative Director, and began publication of “GO Journal,” a free magazine meant to convey the beauty and strength of para-athletes, as well as the cultural landscape that surrounds them. We also publish various other publications, including “Parasapo Magazine,” “Parasapo Newspaper,” “Next Action Guide,” and more, to convey the fun and appeal of parasports, and drive advancements towards a more diverse and inclusive society.

“I’mPOSSIBLE” toolkit distributed to approximately 36,000 schools nationwide
(Elementary, middle, and high schools, and special needs schools)

A total of 755,000 published materials distributed
(GO Journal: 65,000 / Parasapo Magazine: 9 / Parasapo Newspaper: 500,000 / Next Action Guide: 100,000)

It is now less than 500 days until the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, and it seems excitement and anticipation are growing with each day. Parasapo will continue to use the Paralympics as an opportunity to move towards the realization of a more diverse and inclusive society, and expand our projects to this end. We hope you stick around to see what we have in store.

Text by Parasapo Lab

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