Amid the continuing effects of the coronavirus pandemic, unforeseen accidents and heatstroke cases have been reported one after another at the Tokyo Paralympics, highlighting the difficulty of organizing the event.
When asked, Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games CEO Toshiro Muto revealed at a press conference on Aug. 30 -- the halfway point of the event -- that a table tennis player using a wheelchair fell when getting off a lift-equipped bus.
According to the organizing committee, the accident occurred at around 9:40 a.m. on Aug. 26 at a bus stop near the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium when the player fell after a wire holding the lift broke. After being treated at a medical office and prescribed painkillers, the athlete participated in practice immediately afterward. The bus has since been taken out of operation.
Another unexpected accident occurred at the athletes' village, which should be safe and secure, at around 2 p.m. on Aug. 26, when Paralympic judoka Aramitsu Kitazono, who has tunnel vision, was walking on a pedestrian crossing and had a minor collision with a bus that was turning right. The athlete suffered minor injuries to his head and legs, and had no choice but to miss his match. A source close to the event explained, "He developed symptoms including headaches, and the doctor told him he shouldn't compete."
The e-Palette autonomous electric bus developed by Toyota Motor Corp. had been driving around the athletes' village around the clock. The Metropolitan Police Department is looking into the cause of the accident and conducted an on-site investigation on Aug. 29. The bus, which had been removed from operation after the accident, resumed on Aug. 31 upon the request of athletes.
While the organizing committee was aware what had happened at the athletes' village, it wasn't until the evening of Aug. 27 that it disclosed the accident. Though the committee explained "it took a long time to coordinate" with those concerned, an executive of a sports organization outside of judo said, "No accidents should happen at the athletes' village, which is supposed to be a safe place. An explanation on why the accident occurred should be provided via the Japanese Paralympic Committee."
Since winning the bid to host the Games, Japan's lack of experience in operating international parasports events has been an issue. About 4,400 athletes are participating in the Tokyo Paralympics, and compared to the Olympics, more detailed support depending on certain disabilities is essential. However, a large-scale mock tournament inviting foreign athletes was never held after the Games were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
An executive of the organizing committee said, "In consideration of athletes with visual impairments and other disabilities, we should have stopped the self-driving buses at the athletes' village. Our prediction was too optimistic."
The organizing committee also announced on Aug. 30 that a total of 25 athletes and those involved in the Paralympic Games have suffered from heatstroke in its first five days. One athlete was taken to a clinic in the athletes' village while the remaining 24 suffered minor symptoms.
(Japanese original by Yuta Kobayashi, Sports News Department, and Takuya Nagamune, Osaka Sports News Department)