Australia’s Paralympians in Tokyo will have a sanctuary of their own to celebrate with their loved ones, thanks to a partnership between Paralympics Australia, Sydney’s Sutherland Shire Council and its Japanese sister city Chuo.
With hundreds of family members and friends of Australia’s Paralympic athletes expected in Tokyo, Paralympics Australia commenced a thorough search for a safe, secure and convenient venue for Paralympians to connect with their closest supporters during the Games.
The search led Paralympics Australia to the municipality of Chuo, which generously offered the use of Harumi Junior High School – just 800m away from the Paralympic Village – as the venue which is already being viewed as a major advantage for the Australian Paralympic Team’s campaign.
Paralympics Australia Chief Executive Lynne Anderson, who has recently returned from a visit to Japan said the partnership would not have been possible without the support of Sutherland Shire Council.
“This partnership will not only provide a huge boost for our athletes on the ground in Tokyo, but will help build support for the Australian Team in the area. This will be a hub for Australian supporters and we’re already excited about the atmosphere it will generate” Anderson said.
“It is incredible to be able to engage with Chuo City in a really meaningful way through this partnership, and in particular, we love the relationship they have with their sister city, the Sutherland Shire,” Anderson said.
“Having just visited Harumi Junior High School, I’m excited to see this partnership evolve on so many levels. The base is so close to the Paralympic Village, which will easily connect athletes to their loved ones, but what I’m most excited about is the potential to spread the Paralympic word through the Chuo City community.”
Australian Paralympic Team Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin said the site will provide athletes the opportunity to connect with their family and friends in comfort, away from the intensity of the Paralympic Games environment.
“The Games environment can be incredibly stressful for so many athletes, and without somewhere safe and quiet for them to see those who have supported them throughout their journey to the Games, it can impact negatively on performance,” McLoughlin said.
“It’s fantastic to see this initiative come to life, and we’re grateful for the support from the Sutherland Shire and Chuo City. We know Tokyo will become home to our Paralympic Team in no time.”
To recognise Chuo City for their generous hospitality, Paralympics Australia will conduct a community engagement program in the lead up to the Paralympic Games, both in the Sutherland Shire and in Chuo City.
Chuo City and schools within the Sutherland Shire will have the opportunity to learn more about the Paralympic Games and have the chance to try a Paralympic sport under the guidance of an Australian Paralympic athlete.
Artworks from Chuo City and Sutherland Shire Schools will be placed in the Australian section of the main Paralympic Village in Tokyo and Para-Cycling Villages in Izu and Fuji regions outside of Tokyo.
Paralympics Australia is currently preparing to send approximately 180 athletes from up to 18 sports to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games in August next year.
By Sascha Ryner, Paralympics Australia Media