With regard to the relationship between the Paralympics and awareness about people with disabilities, Watari （2007） discusses the situation at the end of the Nagano 1998 Paralympic Games. According to the study, the Tokyo 1964 Paralympic Games did lead to the development of awareness about people with disabilities, but that was what could be called “civil inattention,” a product of the festive atmosphere at the time that did not involve actually facing the realities of people with disabilities. Watari notes that the Nagano 1998 Paralympic Games led to the formation of “civil attention,” which is defined as “‘social inclusion’ and ‘understanding’ are thought to be achieved, but with a strong emphasis that it is in the context of sports, and concealing the difficult conditions faced by people with disabilities, asymmetry between the ‘disabled’ and ‘able-bodied’ categories, and physical differences.” Building on Watari’s discussion, this article aims to explore the possibility of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games leading to the development of a “true interest” in disabilities and parasports.
There are three aspects to what makes parasports interesting and enjoyable: the high level of the competitions, stories of individual athletes, and unique sports techniques and strategies.
First, the level of competition in parasports has risen significantly in recent years, enabling some parasports to develop into spectator sports. However, with a few exceptions, they do not reach the exact same level as Olympic sports.
Second, is the stories of individual athletes. According to Joseph Campbell （2015）, the stories of heroes share the following pattern: “Separation,” “Initiation,” and “Return.” Most of the stories of athletes and sports stars covered by newspapers and television are structured based on this pattern. We are deeply moved by stories of how athletes overcame the setbacks and sense of physical loss caused by their disabilities, as well as the process through which they developed their athletic skills and fought discrimination. Such stories may potentially lead to the dismantling of the “civil inattention” to people with disabilities and the “civil attention” to parasports, promoting understanding of the realities of people with disabilities and adaptive sports. However, since such stories stress the process of overcoming disabilities, regardless of athletes’ wishes, they also run the risk of forcing people to participate in so-called “inspiration porn.”
Third, is the sports techniques and strategies unique to parasports. Each paraathlete is in a different situation, even if they have the same disability. For this reason, no two athletes run, jump, throw, swim, or take breaths in the same way. Para-athletes identify and create techniques that suit their own situation, which is a fascinating feature unique to parasports.
I hope that there will be more extensive media coverage of the Paralympics, along with qualitative changes in news articles. Even if the Paralympics are canceled, I hope that there will be a change in the quality of the content. Media coverage is currently expanding to include class divisions and athletes’ stories, in addition to reporting results. I hope that there will also be updates on races and matches and other relevant information based on an understanding of the unique techniques and strategies developed by individual para-athletes, which would enable people to gain an understanding of parasports and learn about the “real self” of para-athletes. This may lead to the dismantling of the “civil inattention” to disabilities and “civil attention” to parasports, among other concepts that pose a hindrance to understanding, enabling people to come face to face with and understand the realities facing individual athletes, and ultimately bring about further changes in awareness about people with disabilities and parasports.
In June 2019, the United States Olympic Committee （USOC） changed its name to the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee （USOPC）. This decision can be considered a culmination of the initiatives related to the governance of the USOC aimed at improving the rights and position of para-athletes and clarifying the organization’s involvement in the Paralympics, which have gradually been implemented since the late 1970s. Since then, the USOPC （and its predecessor organization the USOC） has implemented governance reforms in response to the issues and crises as they have arisen, improving the position of para-athletes and expanding its involvement in the Paralympics along the way.
This article aims to consider the governance of the USOPC, especially in terms of how its relationship with parasports and the Paralympics has changed.
The Amateur Sports Act of 1978 recognized the USOC as the central organization responsible for supervising all Olympic-related activities in the US. Furthermore, the Act stated that the USOC would “encourage and provide assistance to amateur athletic programs and competition for handicapped individuals, including, where feasible, the expansion of opportunities for meaningful participation by handicapped individuals in programs of athletic competition for able-bodied individuals,” thereby establishing the USOC’s role as an organization for promoting amateur sports for disabled people. In order to achieve this purpose, a standing committee responsible for providing the USOC with advice on issues related to para-athletes’ rights was formed.
The Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act was passed in October 1998, representing a revision of the Amateur Sports Act of 1978. The new act acknowledged the USOC as the official managing organization of the Paralympics in the US and clearly stated the USOC’s role as the country’s National Paralympic Committee （NPC）. The new act also clearly placed the Paralympics within the purview of the USOC, which improved the rights of para-athletes.
Established as a division of the USOC in May 2001, the U. S. Paralympics was charged to enhance program support and coaching expertise in collaboration with National Governing Body （NGB）, increase Paralympic media awareness, extend financial support for elite Paralympic athletes, and utilize the Paralympic platform to promote health and wellness for persons with a disability.
Starting in the mid-2000s, the USOC launched a program specifically intended for disabled veterans with financial aid from the federal government. Furthermore, the Adaptive Sport Grant Program was launched and a monthly training allowance began being provided in accordance with the Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2008（ Public Law No: 110-389）.
More recently, in September 2018, the USOC board decided to increase the prize money for Paralympic medalists to the same amount as that for Olympic athletes, as part of efforts to remove the disparities between the Paralympics and Olympics and ensure that financial resources are allocated directly to athletes.
Since most previous studies on media coverage of the Paralympics have been dedicated to analyzing newspaper articles, television broadcasts, and other news outlets and examining the content presented by them, there is a need for studies focusing on the interpretation of the content by people on the receiving side. In view of this need, the Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center conducted a joint survey with the NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute targeting viewers of television broadcasts of the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Games in an attempt to grasp their viewing behaviors and attitudes. Analyses of the survey have been focused on the viewing attitudes of people with disabilities. Based on the survey’s findings, this study aims to consider the viewing behaviors of able-bodied viewers of Paralympic broadcasts and the changes in their attitudes resulting from the viewing experience. Of the survey’s findings, the study focuses in particular on the responses from 500 able-bodied viewers concerning their level of interest, level of active viewing, reason for viewing, reason for not viewing, broadcast impact, and broadcast impression, among other aspects related to the PyeongChang Paralympics. The responses are compared with those of people with disabilities, and the differences in response tendencies are analyzed according to various individual attributes.
It is shown that regarding the viewing behaviors of able-bodied viewers of television broadcasts of the PyeongChang Paralympics, their levels of interest and active viewing were both lower than those of people with disabilities; and there was a tendency for people who frequently engaged in sports activities or interacted with people with disabilities in everyday life to watch the broadcasts more actively. It is also shown that many of the viewers watched the Paralympics simply because they found it interesting as a sports event, and not especially because it was a disability sports event. As for changes in viewer attitudes, many active viewers tended to feel that their understanding of disabled people and disabilities had grown, and more than 70% of viewers who were attracted by the event’s popularity or athletes’ achievements also tended to feel that their understanding of disabled people and disabilities had grown. Regarding broadcast impression, athletes’ achievements and stories in particular tended to have a strong impression on viewers. More specifically, it is suggested that stories that describe “overcoming difficulties” was one of the key elements that moved viewers emotionally.
Active viewing of Paralympic broadcasts by able-bodied people may lead to the development of further understanding of disabled people and disabilities among ablebodied people. In order for this to happen, it will be important to present sports in a way that focuses not simply on winning or on exceptional skills, but also on the athletes’ diverse characteristics that create a unique physical dynamism, and to communicate how this makes the sports interesting. The outcome will be to generate discussions about social issues.
A variety of Para sports-related activities, including events to experience Para sports, have been launched since the selection of Tokyo as the host city for the 2020 Paralympic Games.
Previous Japanese research on Para sports-related experiences and their impact includes studies on changes in student awareness through classes at educational institutions, studies on changes in the awareness of those who engaged in specific Para sports, and studies that aim to identify able-bodied people’s subconscious attitudes toward and awareness about people with disabilities. These studies have shown that interaction with people with disabilities and experiences with Para sports have a positive impact on able-bodied people’s awareness about and attitudes toward people with disabilities. However, since the studies have a limited scope, they do not necessarily offer an overall picture of society. Therefore, research that does not limit its scope to a specific Para sport or to awareness and attitudes in psychological terms is required, and it should be conducted based on a consideration of what distinguishes Para sports from a broad perspective. This study aims to examine the relationship between Para sports and inclusion awareness through a nationwide, randomized online survey and to shed light on the impact of experiences with Para sports on inclusion awareness.
The study first examines how the relationship between Para sports and inclusion awareness is understood by the government and various organizations that hold events involving Para sports experiences. Then, an online survey was conducted based on the hypothesis that engagement in Para sports has a positive impact on knowledge acquisition, awareness raising, actual behavior, and social image.
The online survey showed that awareness about words related to an inclusive society was higher among respondents who had experiences with Para sports than those who did not, and that for most respondents their experiences of Para sports had involved watching Para sports on TV or in person. The survey also showed that respondents who had experiences with Para sports had a more positive image of Para sports and were more inclined to help people with disabilities than those who had no experiences with Para sports, although further verification is required due to a low level of connection among these aspects. On the other hand, the survey indicated that experiences with Para sports were not related to how respondents viewed disability (social model or individual model) or how they viewed today’s society and an ideal society.
These findings lend some support to the working hypothesis presented in this study. The selection of Tokyo as the host city for the 2020 Paralympic Games has led to more opportunities to develop experiences with Para sports. Hopefully, these opportunities will continue to be provided even after the Paralympic Games and lead to the development of inclusion awareness among able-bodied people. This study predominantly focuses on analyzing the relationship between experiences with Para sports and inclusion awareness; therefore, future goals include exploring how interaction (or lack thereof) with people with disabilities and experiences other than engagement in Para sports impact inclusion awareness.