Junichi Kawai, President of the Japanese Paralympic Committee, told Global Sports Week Paris today that Tokyo 2020 can alter the national state of mind regarding disabled people ©GSW

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games can remove physical and mental barriers within Japanese society, Japanese Paralympic Committee Junichi Kawai told Global Sports Week Paris.

Speaking from a live link in Tokyo, the five-times Paralympic swimming gold medallist said the Paralympics, due to start on August 24, can change the mindset of those who watch and witness it to create a vital legacy for Japan and the wider world.

"I hope people will have awareness," he said.

"And through the awareness we will find that they have thought that disabled people were unable to do certain things.

"But I think that people will change their mindset because they can see that disabled persons are going through trials and errors and trying to do as much as they can, and that the opportunities in society all change as a result.

"And that as a result people will inevitably accept diversity and inclusion.

"Diversity, for example, is like asking people to go to a dance, and inclusion is to dance with someone.

"So through the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, I hope that people who watch the Games will go to the workplace or to schools and practise the inclusion wherever they are."

Junichi Kawai, left, won five Paralympic gold medals in swimming during his career ©Getty Images
Junichi Kawai, left, won five Paralympic gold medals in swimming during his career ©Getty Images

Kawai said there are "many people" with a disability who have applied to be a volunteer at the Games, which organisers have insisted will go ahead despite the coronavirus pandemic.

"Through working together I believe that the attraction can be felt and they can show the attraction to many people," he added.

"As I result I believe Japanese society will advance further and further in terms of diversity and inclusion through these Games.

"Currently we are focusing on the Paralympics in relation to education.

"We want to send out the message to the children that the inconvenience faced by disabled people and elderly people is similar.

"We are the most aged society in the world and we are facing these challenges.

"But through the Paralympics we want to find the clues in solving this problem.

"By so doing we want to create a community and a society that is liveable for everyone and we want to tap into the good character of everyone.

"We can also give that know-how and knowledge to other parts of the world.

"As the stations and other hardware become barrier-free that will be great, but on top of that we need the legacy in people’s mind.

"Barrier-free, or open-mindedness should be left as a legacy through the Tokyo Paralympic Games."