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The Games After the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Rethinking Media Coverage of Para-sports in Japan


By SAYUMI TAKE


Image credit: Pixabay, via Pexels


The first ticket lottery for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics marked history with a record number of 390,000 participants. The Japanese’ interest towards the Paralympics seems to be high --- but whether this means that in Japan, para-sports is widely acknowledged and deeply understood, or to take it a step further, a society where disabled and non-disabled people live as equals is fully established, is an entirely different issue.


Studies on Paralympic broadcasts have been conducted by the NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute over the past two years, and the results show that the road to fostering an accurate, widespread understanding of para-sports in Japan remains long and tough.


One of the biggest obstacles lies in the fact that people have few opportunities to learn about para-sports. Usually, the only chance people have of knowing the rules and fun of para-sports is if they actively attend events held for this purpose. Moreover, media coverage of para-sports other than the Paralympics is insufficient. The research results mentioned earlier introduces comments by disabled people, such as “The media should also broadcast para-sports tournaments other than the Paralympics” and “How many people know of the Deaflympics, anyway?”. When asked about the Paralympic broadcasts, respondents left sharp comments such as “The chances of commercial broadcasting services featuring the Paralympics are extremely low” and “The Paralympics are just another exciting material for the media to fuss about”.


[...] the road to fostering an accurate, widespread understanding of para-sports in Japan remains long and tough.

Another reality revealed by the research results was the disabled people’s strong resistance to “inspiration porn”. Inspiration porn, a phrase invented by journalist Stella Young, refers to the situation in which society objectifies disabled people for the benefit of inspiring non-disabled people. Comments such as “Paralympians should be portrayed just like any other ‘ordinary’ athlete”, and “Who has the right to gain inspiration from hardworking disabled people?”, underline the fact that the means of spreading understanding of para-sports and disabled people must be chosen carefully.


When asked about the Paralympic broadcasts, respondents left sharp comments such as “The chances of commercial broadcasting services featuring the Paralympics are extremely low” and “The Paralympics are just another exciting material for the media to fuss about”.

It is delightful news that the 2020 Games are expected to be one of the most exciting tournaments in history. However, the Japanese people should bear in mind that this is not just a once-in-a-lifetime entertainment, but a one-and-only chance to rethink media coverage of para-sports and thus establish a society where disabled and non-disabled people live in harmony as true equals.


"Inspiration porn", a phrase invented by journalist Stella Young, refers to the situation in which society objectifies disabled people for the benefit of inspiring non-disabled people.