International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons hopes stadiums at next summer's Tokyo Games are filled with families as he believes exposing children to disabled sport can play a role in forming positive life-long attitudes.
With the one-year-to-go milestone until the Paralympics' opening ceremony approaching, Parsons told Kyodo News in a recent phone interview that one of the main objectives of the upcoming Paralympic Games is "to bring as many families as possible" to what he considers is a "very family-friendly event."
"We worked with the organizing committee to offer tickets at very affordable prices so that we can have a lot of families at the venues," he said.
(Hidetaka Sugimura (C, R) and Takayuki Hirose, both from Japan's Paralympic boccia team, pose for a photo in Tokyo on March 8, 2019.)
Ticket prices for groups and families start from 500 yen ($4.70), as the Tokyo organizers aim to attract as many young spectators as possible. Opening and closing ceremonies are priced from 8,000 yen up to 150,000 yen.
Next year's Tokyo Games, running from Aug. 25 to Sept. 6, are expected to draw a record number of athletes, up to 4,400, competing in hundreds of events across 22 sports, including newly added badminton and taekwondo, at 21 venues in Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba and Shizuoka prefectures.
"The Paralympic Games all together...become something that changes not only the minds of one person but families," Parsons said, adding he wants the games to change perceptions in society.
He also said experiencing the effects of the Paralympic Games early in life is desirable because such experiences would change perceptions for life "in a very positive way."
Asked about the ticket sales target, Parsons said, "We expect to have full stadia. We are not worried about breaking the record (of ticket sales) or not."
For the 2012 London Paralympics, approximately 2.7 million tickets were sold, which remains the record.
"It will be fantastic if it happens, but we want to have full stadia so that we can leave a long-lasting legacy in Japanese society (and) also offer an incredible atmosphere for our athletes to compete," he said.
He was very optimistic about attracting big crowds, pointing to a "wave of good atmosphere surrounding persons with disabilities and the Paralympic Games" in Japan, demonstrated by two politicians with severe disabilities being elected to the Diet in July's upper house election.
Parsons also touched on measures to protect athletes and spectators from the intense heat, a major concern, saying the organizing committee had a comprehensive overview of the plan to minimize the impact of the heat and some of these measures were implemented at the test events.
(International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons)
"Information we have so far is that (the measures) were successful," adding that a working group also involving the organizing committee and the International Olympic Committee is studying weather patterns and data.
As the heat and humidity regularly prove a challenge in Japanese summer, the marathon and triathlon will start at an earlier hour than initially scheduled, which Parsons called "the right decision."
"The wellbeing of the athletes is the most important aspect of the games for us, so if there are any extreme conditions, we will react," he said, adding that he does not foresee any further changes to the schedule.
Regarding the torch relay, which will traverse Tokyo and its surrounding prefectures after the Olympics, Parsons expects the event to serve as the moment to let people in Japan and elsewhere know the baton has been passed from the Olympics to the Paralympics.
The IPC is also open to peripheral proposals that can improve the games and make sense for the organizers and the host country, such as an idea of having a robot runner, he said.
"Anything that makes sense for Japan," he said, "we will do it together with Tokyo 2020."