Japan's localities to promote sports for the disabled

Japan's localities to promote sports for the disabled
File photo of thousands of runners filling the street in front of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building bearing a banner promoting the 2020 Tokyo Olympics at the start of the Tokyo Marathon.

In a bid to promote sports for the disabled, the government will start from fiscal 2015, which begins April 1, new projects in cooperation with local governments, including offering classes mainly at primary and middle schools in which students can experience such sports.

The new projects are aimed at encouraging disabled people to participate in sports, as well as deepening understanding of such sports among a wide segment of the public ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

One of the main pillars of the projects is that the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, in cooperation with prefectural and municipal governments, will designate 25 local governments by the end of March as "model regions" in which mainly primary and middle school students will deepen their understanding of sports for the disabled and promote exchanges with disabled athletes during integrated study classes.

For example, Paralympic athletes will visit schools in those model regions to offer special classes. Students will play blind football or wheelchair table tennis with children from special needs schools in the neighborhood.

Bodies tentatively called "executive committees" will also be set up at local and major city governments to strengthen cooperation among organisations related to sports for the disabled. The committees will comprise representatives from local governments, regional sports organisations, social welfare councils, hospitals, schools and others.

The organisations related to sports for the disabled will cooperate in promoting exchanges among instructors of disabled sports and the joint use of sports facilities. They will also hold classes in which people can experience sports for the disabled and offer lectures on such sports for local residents.

The government decided to establish the executive committees in response to calls that cooperation has often been lacking between sports organisations and welfare organisations.

In fiscal 2015, about 20 local governments are expected to agree to the plan to create the executive committees.

According to a 2013 survey commissioned by the ministry, 47.5 per cent of the general population plays sports at least one day a week but only 18.2 per cent of the disabled do so.

The government has earmarked about ¥280 million (S$3.2 million) for the fiscal 2015 budget to promote sports for the disabled.

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