Takayuki Suzuki: London 2012 was the third time for me to take part in the Paralympic Games, since Athens 2004. The most impressive thing in London was that the audience considered the Paralympics as a sports event in its own right and not just as an event for people with disabilities. They gave warm support to all the athletes, not only the British ones, which made for a very good atmosphere in which the athletes could perform well. Overall it was a very happy experience. I believe that Tokyo can realise such an atmosphere, too. If Tokyo is selected to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games, I would like to be involved in it somehow, and hope to create a wonderful event to follow London’s success.
Ms Sawa, you announced that you would play football in the Ginza pedestrian promenade (*Ginza is a district in the centre of Tokyo). Could you tell us more about this? Mr Suzuki, do you have any similar wish? Do you plan to participate in the 2020 Games yourselves?
Sawa: I joined a parade (of Japanese Olympic athletes) in Ginza after London 2012 and saw firsthand how many people are interested in the Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as being able to appreciate just how many people supported us at London 2012. After that experience, I had the idea of playing football in that pedestrian promenade. It will be a lot of fun! I hope many will join in, and that it will encourage people to get behind the Tokyo 2020 bid. If the 2020 Games are held in Tokyo, I don’t think I will still be playing then but I would like to do something to help make the event a success. Mr Suzuki will only be 33 years old, so I believe he could still make the team!
Suzuki: That’s true, but at this moment I can't make any promises about that! Actually, when that parade happened in Ginza, we Paralympians were in London preparing for the Games. I saw news coverage of the parade on the internet and learnt that half a million people had joined the parade. I was very envious! In the UK, Olympic and Paralympic athletes had a joint parade, and I heard that almost the same number of people came to see the one in Tokyo. If Tokyo hosts the 2020 Games, my hope is that the Olympic and Paralympic athletes will march together in Ginza. (Of course we don’t have to wait until 2020, though!) This means that I have to be active as an athlete until then! Although I'm not sure if I will still be swimming by then, I am honoured to serve as an Ambassador for the Tokyo 2020 bid for now.
Please tell us about the main attractions of the Tokyo 2020 bid.
Sawa: We have a lot of them! First we would like to bring the great atmosphere of London 2012 to Tokyo. Tokyo is a very convenient city for events of this scale and can attract a huge audience. Also, I have heard that Japanese people are not believed to have much interest in sports, but actually the opposite is true!
Suzuki: It’s just as Ms Sawa described - Japanese people have a great interest in sports. For example, there are many amateur runners and Tokyo holds a marathon every year. Football has a lot of supporters, and many people enjoy watching swimming too. From the outside it may not look like that, but in fact Japan loves sports! Since London 2012 was fabulous, I hope that British people have a chance to experience the same in Tokyo and hope many will join us to make it a wonderful event!