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Athletes feel para sports not attractive enough ahead of 2020 Games

Many Japanese para athletes polled feel there is a need to make disabled sports more attractive ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, results of a survey by Kyodo News showed Saturday, with the Games set to open in exactly two years.

In the survey conducted on 77 para athletes across 10 sports such as archery, blind soccer and swimming, nearly 70 percent said they see the need for «improving the attractiveness of para sports» in a multiple-choice question of what they view as issues needing to be solved.

But almost 90 percent responded that the environment surrounding para sports has improved.

The survey results show there is recognition by para athletes of increased media exposure and sponsors for events but also that the athletes feel progress still needs to be made in gaining public interest in the lead-up to the Games.

Answers to suggestions for making para sports more attractive include increasing awareness through holding events that let people experience such sports or incorporating the sports into school curriculums, according to the survey.

(A paralympic athlete demonstrates wheelchair fencing)

Kota Hokinoue, a wheelchair athlete, said adopting a lottery like that used for Japan’s professional soccer league could draw in more fans.

Meanwhile, 44 percent said they wanted «better treatment,» with powerlifter Nao Nagasawa saying she wants the Paralympics to be treated with the same respect as the Olympics.

Coming in third, 42 percent called for more «barrier-free» facilities or those with universal design, with some complaining that certain venues are too far from train stations and taxis are not wheelchair-friendly.

«Ways to deal with the heat» was the fourth most popular choice with 23 votes, after parts of Japan experiencing record-high temperatures in July.

Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, under direction from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is exploring whether to introduce daylight saving time as a way to avoid competition being held during the hottest times of the day.

All — Kyodo News+

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