Official Opening of The Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center’s New OfficeNew office will also provide shared office space for para-leagues
A press conference was held on November 10 at The Nippon Zaidan Building (The Nippon Foundation’s head offices) to officially open the new office of The Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center (the “Support Center”). The Support Center was launched in May 2015 by The Nippon Foundation, which plans to provide ¥10 billion through 2021 to support para sports leagues and help para-athletes prepare for and compete in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, President of The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and Supreme Advisor to the Support Center, Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe, Special Advisor to the Support Center, and Toshiaki Endo, Minister in charge of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, attended the opening press conference. The popular musical group SMAP also made a surprise guest appearance.
The press conference was held in the lobby of The Nippon Zaidan Building, with approximately 150 members of the media present. Yasushi Yamawaki, Chairman of the Support Center, welcomed the attendees and explained that the shared office space would have an open configuration, and that roughly 25 para sports leagues are expected to use this space. He also expressed his hope that this arrangement would encourage information sharing among the leagues and make the office a base for the dissemination of information. Next, Mr. Mori noted that without doors and walls, the office felt more spacious than the organizing committee’s offices, and jokingly asked whether some space would be available for the committee. Governor Masuzoe remarked, “I have always said that the Tokyo Olympics will not be a success unless the Paralympics are a success,” but noted that it will be 50 years before we can know whether or not they were a success. He added that the city of Tokyo was making every effort to ensure that a suitable environment, including barrier-free facilities, will be in place.
Speaking on behalf of The Nippon Foundation, Chairman Yohei Sasakawa said, “We have supported activities for persons with disabilities around the world for many years. We continue to highlight the talents of disabled persons in areas including culture and sports, and the United Nations has affirmed this as well. Through these activities, we are pursuing our mission of achieving an inclusive society without discrimination, and our support for the Paralympics is an important part of this effort.”
Next, Susumu Yoshida, President of the Japanese Para-Powerlifting Federation, one of the leagues that will use the office space, thanked the Support Center and noted that the office will make it possible to hold meetings right away and to gather information quickly, and expressed his hope that this would lead to medals at the Tokyo Paralympics.
Four currently active para-athletes in attendance were also introduced: Shingo Kunieda (wheelchair tennis); Mei Ichinose (swimming); Daisuke Ikezaki (wheelchair rugby); and Saki Takakuwa (track). Mr. Kunieda expressed his determination: “The most important thing for the success of the Tokyo Paralympics is for the athletes to compete. I have won gold medals at the last two Paralympics, and am hoping for a third in Rio and a fourth in Tokyo.”
After Mr. Kunieda’s remarks, the five members of the popular musical group SMAP joined the press conference, to the surprise of everyone in attendance. Each member was introduced by Mr. Yamawaki and expressed their support for the Support Center and the Paralympic Movement, including the para-ekiden (relay marathon) to be held at Komazawa Olympic Park on November 29.
The press conference concluded with the members of SMAP, para-athletes, and other guests starting a countdown clock for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. The clock showed 1,749 days and 8 hours remaining.
After the press conference, the guests toured the Support Center office. The new office occupies the entire 4th Floor of The Nippon Zaidan Building (approximately 1,300 square meters). The office includes shared office space and meeting rooms to be used free of charge by various para sports leagues, many of which do not have offices or full-time staff, and the Support Center will provide these leagues with organizational support and operational support in areas like accounting and translation / interpretation.
The Nippon Foundation