School students show their support for Japanese paralympic team

As well as inspiring a generation, the London 2012 Games provided a wonderful platform for international exchange, with athletes from some 204 National Olympic Committees participating in the Olympics and 164 in the Paralympics. We heard a story of one school in particular - Sutton Grammar School - that used this once-in-a-lifetime event to learn about different countries and their athletes by assigning each class a country to support for each of the games.

One of the classes, 7 Brown, was assigned Japan for the Paralympic Games and during their project they decorated their classroom with Japanese flags and studied a great deal about the culture and history of the country. The class wrote to the Japan Paralympic Committee (JPC) to tell them about their project and to wish the team well. Touched by their gesture, the JPC invited the school students to join the welcome ceremony at the Athlete's Village on Tuesday 23 August, and in turn Ambassador Keiichi Hayashi invited them to join a reception for the athletes at the Embassy the following week. The children presented the athletes with a Japanese flag signed with a "good luck" message from their school.

The following reports were written by some of the school students from Sutton Grammar School following their participation in these Paralympic events:

Paralympic Village & Japanese Embassy Visit  by Alex Williams

It was brilliant going to the Paralympic Village. It was incredible seeing everything for real and getting a tour round and I learnt lots of new things about the Paralympics like the fact that they have a different emblem to the Olympics. It was excellent welcoming the athletes, coaches and everybody else to the London Paralympic Games.

When we visited the Japanese Embassy in Piccadilly, it was a much more formal occasion than at the Welcoming Ceremony at the Paralympic Village and everyone was very formally dressed, apart from the Japanese athletes and coaches who were in their team tracksuits. It was interesting talking to some of the athletes, learning what sports they would compete in. Not all the athletes were there though, because they were training for their events which were just days away.

All in all, it was two fascinating days, it was a once in a lifetime experience and I would love to do it again if I got another opportunity.

Japanese flag with message of support received by Nobukazu Hanaoka on behalf of Team Japan

Japanese Embassy Visit by Max Baugh

At the Japanese Embassy my friends and I met the Japanese athletes for events like Athletics, Archery and Judo. We met Yutaka Ajima who gave us an archery badge and we got to ask him a few questions. We also got to see all the athletes when their names were called out and they all came up. We also presented a Japanese flag with a message on it to the Japanese. We saw a Japanese lady play a traditional Japanese instrument and we got to try some traditional Japanese food, Delicious! In general I found it a very enjoyable experience and getting to know the Japanese people and socialising with them was really fun. I had a great time at the Embassy.

Performers at the Welcoming Ceremony in the Athletes Village

Japanese Paralympic Trips by Magnus Johnson

Our trips to both the Embassy of Japan and the Paralympic village were definitely the highlights of my holiday. When the opportunity was given to attend I took it straight away. At the Paralympic village the welcoming ceremony for the athletes was entertaining and exciting, and the food was plentiful. We had a tour of the village and were told about the legacy of it. At the embassy the exhibition about the 1964 Tokyo Olympics was interesting. Although nearly all of the service was in Japanese, most of the athletes knew a little English. We presented a flag to one of the athletes (who I later found out is called Nobukazu Hanaoka). Also, the food there was brilliant and there was live "koto" music, performed by one of the best players in the world.

Japanese Paralympic Trip by Gabriel Tweedale

I absolutely loved following the Olympics in July, and regularly found myself standing on the sofa shouting at the TV! It was therefore fantastic, a few weeks later, to be able to go behind the scenes at the Paralympic Village and actually meet real athletes. I felt really privileged to be shown around places such as the hi-tech training gym, and be part of the Paralympic athletes' welcoming ceremony, as these weren't things open to the public.

The Japanese Paralympic team were really friendly and welcoming and we enjoyed chatting, via interpreters, about their sports and intensive training. It was fascinating to watch all the athletes that I've talked to actually competing in the Paralympics and watching them on TV. I went to a session at the Aquatic Centre and it was so much more exciting to watch someone who I've met, competing.

At the Japanese Embassy it was quite nerve-wracking to stand up and say a few words of welcome in front of so many athletes and officials, but I really hope we showed them all that Sutton Grammar would be backing them all throughout the Paralympics.

Japanese Paralympic Trip by Henry Dalton-Stone

We arrived at the Paralympic Village and within about ten minutes of watching rehearsals, the Welcoming Ceremony for Japan. All the Paralympic athletes of the different countries were watching the strange but stylish show. After about ten minutes of colourful people dancing and songs being sung, the flags were raised and National Anthems were played.

At the end of all this, we were taken on a tour of the Japanese accommodation. This included several different rooms such as the medical room, various health rooms and a bedroom (I think). After this, we met a few friendly Japanese athletes. We shook hands, had pictures and exchanged a few words. After this, we were taken to the fitness centre and had an interesting tour.

Sutton Grammar School students meet the Japanese Paralympians
at the Embassy reception

This included visiting the main hall, which boasted treadmills with Wifi, specialist sports equipment and much more. We shook hands, had pictures and exchanged a few words. After this, we were taken to the fitness centre and had an interesting tour. This included visiting the main hall, which boasted treadmills with Wifi, specialist sports equipment and much more. There was a weightlifting room and lots of other rooms which I can't remember much about! After this, we had lunch among the Paralympic athletes in the Athlete's Canteen. It was humongous! Offering about every single piece of food you could think of, it was like paradise! After a quick visit to the gift shop, we made our way home...

The visit to the Paralympic Village, was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I will never forget. Thank you Japan!