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Yohei Sasakawa
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The Nippon Foundation Para Arena to be Reopened to Paralympians in April [2021/03/18]
The Nippon Foundation Para Arena, seen on the left, was closed about a year ago to house 100 private rooms for COVID-19 patients, and will be reopened to para athletes on April 1 prior to the Paralympic games due to open on August 24. Seen on the right are14 prefabricated houses with 150 beds as well as a large air-conditioned tent for doctors and nurses.

The Nippon Foundation will reopen The Nippon Foundation Para Arena in Tokyo to para athletes on April 1 almost a year after the dedicated para sports gymnasium was converted into a makeshift facility for novel coronavirus patients with mild or no symptoms.

With about six months to go before the Tokyo Paralympic games slated to open on August 24, I also announced at a press conference on February 25 that the foundation will set up a facility in the same compound to conduct free polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for para athletes. If officials and staff of the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games wish to be tested for COVID-19, we are ready to offer them free PCR testing as well.

In June 2018, we opened the one-story, steel structure gymnasium in Odaiba on Tokyo Bay with 2,989 square meters of floor space designed specifically for boccia, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, and goalball. This was one of the few training facilities tailormade for para sports in Japan.

But amid the deepening novel coronavirus pandemic in April 2020, the foundation closed the para arena and built 100 10-square-meter private rooms there to help ease the strain on hospitals overcrowded with COVID-19 patients.

This was part of The Nippon Foundation Disaster Emergency Support Center, which also includes 14 prefabricated buildings with a total of 140 20-square-meter private rooms for patients who are asymptomatic or display only mild symptoms as well as a large air-conditioned tent where doctors and nurses stand by. These were built in the parking lot of the Museum of Maritime Science, operated by our partner organization. Except for the para arena, these facilities will continue to be used by the Tokyo metropolitan government for the capital’s anti-COVID-19 campaign.

I was delighted that our decision to reopen the para arena was welcomed by Paralympians and others, among them Ms. Eri Yamamoto, a para-powerlifter, and Mr. Shinichi Shimakawa, a member of Japan’s wheelchair rugby team.

Ms. Yamamoto said: “I spent half my career training in the para arena since it was built. So I am truly grateful for its reopening. I am determined to train there in preparation for taking part in the Paralympic as the first Japanese female para-powerlifter.”

Mr. Shimakawa said: “Before the para arena was closed last year, we trained there almost every week as there was no other gymnasium available to wheelchair rugby teams. But since it was closed, I had no option but to practice at home. I am full of gratitude for its reopening.”

At the press conference, I also announced that the foundation will operate The Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center permanently, dropping our earlier plan to close it after the Beijing Winter Paralympic Games in March 2022.

We opened the support center in 2015 with the aim of promoting the Paralympic movement and helping Japanese para athletes prepare for and compete in the Tokyo Paralympic games.

The office of the Support Center occupies the entire 4th floor of The Nippon Foundation Building (approximately 1,300 square meters), including shared office space now used by 29 para sports leagues free of charge, many of which do not have offices or full-time staff. The support center provides these leagues with organizational and operational support in areas such as accounting and translation / interpretation.

We will make every effort to support the para athletes as an important part of our mission to achieve an inclusive society free from discrimination.

Speaking at a press conference on February 25, 2021, to announce the reopening of The Nippon Foundation Para Arena to para athletes on April 1 after it was closed about a year ago to build makeshift facilities for novel coronavirus patients.

The press conference was held in The Nippon Foundation Para Arena in Odaiba, Tokyo.