Looking ahead to the London 2012 Paralympic Games
An interview with Mr Kunio Nakamori
Secretary General of the Japan Paralympic Committee and Delegation Chief

How did you first become involved with the Japan Paralympic Committee?

From 1976 I worked as an instructor at the Osaka City NAGAI Sports Center for Persons with Disabilities. In 1986 I went to work at the Tokyo Metropolitan Sports Center for the Disabled that is managed by the Japan Sports Association for the Disabled. Then from January 2003 I was transferred to the Japan Paralympic Committee.

Can you tell us about your role for the 2012 Paralympics?

My most important role is to make sure that the Japanese athletes arrive safely in London for the Games. Also, the Japan Paralympic Committee conducts support activities for athletes with a disability in Japan by way of backing up sports organizations financially and turning out technical staff who support the athletes. That is another aspect of my job that is very important.

What is the size of the delegation to the London 2012 Games?

At the moment the delegation consists of approximately 250 including 135 athletes. Unfortunately there are fewer athletes in the current delegation than there were for the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. Although the budget available for the strengthening and development of the athletes has greatly increased since the Beijing Paralympics, there are now many more countries who have developed their own teams which are much stronger than ours. In particular, the team of the host country – Team GB - is very impressive.

Opening Ceremony, Paralympic Games 2008 in Beijing (C) X-1 CO., LTD

You inspected the facilities in London at the end of last year. Did you find them to be satisfactory? Are there any particular challenges faced when preparing for the Paralympics?

Since the Games in China, there has been a rule that the Paralympics must be managed by the same body, must be held in the same place, and also the athlete’s village and food served there must be the same as the Olympics. I believe that this has greatly improved the environment in which the Paralympic Games are held. As for the London Games, the venues for the Paralympics are near the centre of London, and on inspection I felt that the athletes could compete in the Games without any problems. There is also a large shopping centre in Stratford so it is good to know that any necessary supplies can be obtained easily.

Japan achieved several gold medals in the 2008 Paralympics, including in wheelchair tennis and athletics. In which particular events are you hoping to win medals in this year’s games?

If the athletes are in good health I think we will stand a good chance of obtaining gold medals in the athletics events, wheelchair tennis and judo. We are also well placed to get medals in swimming and cycling. We hope to also win medals in women’s sitting volleyball, women’s goalball, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby this year.

Which event in particular are you looking forward to?

I am particularly looking forward to the events in which I mentioned that we expect to win medals. We are appearing at the Games as representatives of our country, so I think people in Japan will get very excited if we can win some medals for them!

Finally, what are your expectations for the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and what would you like to say to the British people supporting the Games this September?

In 1964 Japan held the Paralympic Games in Tokyo. The Games were a huge success due to the strong leadership of Dr Yutaka Nakamura who received training from Dr Ludwig Guttman of Stoke Mandeville Hospital in the UK. Since 1964, our Japanese team has participated in the International Stoke Mandeville Games every year, and we have learnt everything we know about sports tournaments for athletes with a disability from the UK. We would like to express our heartfelt thanks.

Since the current Paralympic Games have developed from the International Stoke Mandeville Games, our participation in the London 2012 Paralympic Games is particularly special as we have many good memories of working with them. Also, there were many British people whose assistance we were grateful for during the second Robin Hood Games in Nottingham in 1993, which was sponsored by the Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association.

For these reasons the Japanese team has many good memories, and we are very moved to be taking part in a Paralympic Games held in the UK. The Japanese athletes are ready to do their best and so we hope that the people of Britain will enjoy the Paralympic Games!