International Paralympic Committee CEO Xavier Gonzalez said Friday a shortage of hotel rooms in Tokyo that can accommodate people with disabilities continues to be an issue ahead of the 2020 Summer Games.
"Despite great progress, a lot of work still lies ahead of us between now and the opening ceremony in 1,040 days' time," Gonzalez said after wrapping up a two-day meeting between the IPC and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics organizing committee to check on preparations for the Games.
"As mentioned in the May project review, accessibility in hotels remains a challenge," Gonzalez said, adding the IPC had conducted research on accommodations in the city and found that "the standards are not at the level that we thought they would be."
At the previous meeting held in May, the IPC raised the need to add barrier-free access and furnishings to hotels in the capital to accommodate a large number of IPC staff and visitors with disabilities expected to stay in the city during the Paralympics.
Under Japanese law, hotels and inns with more than 2,000 square meters of total floor space and 50 or more guest rooms are required to have at least one room that is accessible for wheelchair users. This means that even huge hotels with hundreds of rooms may only be able to take in one guest in a wheelchair at a time.
Gonzalez acknowledged that some advancement had been made in the interim, namely a pledge by Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism to conduct a survey on the availability of handicapped-accessible hotel rooms so improvements could be made.
"We would like to recognize...the government's efforts on establishing the existing conditions of accessible rooms in hotels. We strongly believe that by encouraging (the government) to review and enhance the standards in this area, we can leave a lasting legacy from these Games," he said.
Tokyo 2020 organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto said of the issue, "We will continue to urge stakeholders to improve conditions, and strive to make the Games an opportunity to improve various aspects of society."
Both men agreed that efforts to cut down on the cost of the event should not negatively impact athletes.
"The IPC will continue to work hand-in-hand with Tokyo 2020 to identify further budget reductions wherever possible while ensuring the athlete experience is not compromised," Gonzalez said.
IPC President Andrew Parsons, who was elected to the position last month, was also in Tokyo for the meeting. He met separately with Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and education and sports minister Yoshimasa Hayashi on Thursday, and Olympics minister Shunichi Suzuki on Friday to discuss the preparations.