By Jack Tarrant
TOKYO (Reuters) – The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) warned Tokyo 2020 organizers on Friday that more accessible hotels and transport options must be found ahead of the showpiece event.
IPCCEO Xavier Gonzalez was critical of the number of hotel rooms that are wheelchair accessible and does not believe there will be enough suitable rooms by the time some teams arrive for pre-Paralympic camps.
“The job to deliver the best Paralympic Games ever becomes much harder from now on,” said Gonzalez following a two-day project review meeting in the Japanese capital.
“As with any Games, there are some issues which need more detailed planning and resolution but we are confident we are heading in the right direction.
“They are both somewhat outside the organizing committee’s immediate control,” he said.
With an estimated 4,400 Para-athletes, including 1,800 in wheelchairs, expected to descend on the city for the 12-day event, the government announced a law on Wednesday requiring all new hotels with over 50 rooms to provide wheelchair-friendly accommodation.
“Evidently the laws that have been in place, – even if they have been improved – they didn’t create the foundation that we found in other places, where they had better laws in terms of the definition of what an accessible room is and better percentages of rooms in the hotels,” Gonzalez said.
“If we come back here in 20 years with a new Olympic and Paralympic Games then I am absolutely sure that we will have a better foundation on which to build.”
The schedule for the 2020 Paralympic Games was also announced on Friday, with a focus on making the events as accessible as possible and to promote sports in which Japan has a medal hope into prime time slots.
The first day of action, coming after the opening ceremony on Aug. 25, will see competition in seven sports, including cycling, swimming and wheelchair rugby.
“The Paralympic Games are an event that the whole family can enjoy and the 2020 Paralympic sports competition schedule has been designed with the family audience very much in mind,” said Gonzalez.
“Furthermore, the host nation may enjoy some early success at the Games. The first Sunday will see the final of the Wheelchair Rugby, a sport in which Japan recently won the world title.”
Japan are the men’s Wheelchair Rugby world champions after defeating Australia in August.
The men’s and women’s marathons will be held on Sept. 6, the final day of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
(Reporting by Jack Tarrant, editing by Ed Osmond)