The Road to Tokyo 2020 Project: Expert Meeting between the Netherlands and Japan

Policymakers from Japan and the Netherlands came together on 17 September to hear about the progress of the Road to Tokyo 2020 project and to listen to the experienced opinions of Dutch and Japanese policymakers on disability sports.

Japanese and Dutch professionals and policymakers met in the Wijnhaven Complex of Leiden University for an expert meeting organised by LeidenAsiaCentre together with NOC*NSF. Following a short introduction and welcome by Lily Sprangers, manager at the LeidenAsiaCentre, the expert meeting commenced with an introductory talk by Rita van Driel. Rita is the P.I. of the Game Changer initiative conducted between the Dutch National Olympic Committee and National Sports Federation (NOC*NSF), the Japan Sport Council (JSC) and Adachi Ward, Edogawa Ward and Nishitokyo City, all three located in Tokyo. Rita explained the progress of the Game Changer-project in Tokyo and how it has developed over the last years. These activities are the main topic of investigation in LeidenAsiaCentre researcher Anoma van der Veere’s “The Road to Tokyo 2020” project.

LeidenAsiaCentre researcher Anoma van der Veere presenting the findings of his research

The expert meeting continued with a warm welcome from Raymon Blondel, the chairman of the Netherlands National Paralympic Committee. He took the opportunity to welcome the Japanese delegates, and explain in detail how Paralympic sports are organised in the Netherlands.

The first half of the meeting concluded with a presentation by Anoma van der Veere. Showing the preliminary results of his research, he highlighted various differences between Japan and the Netherlands with regard to disability sports. Ending on a positive note, he argued that one aspect of leaving a positive Paralympic legacy will be the effectiveness of initiatives such as the Game Changer projects. He stated that “the Paralympic legacy of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will in part be determined by the effectiveness of implementing disability sports on a grassroots level. In order to do so, it is necessary to connect different stakeholders across the board from policymakers to people who want to do sports, and creating both a physical and institutional structure that is accessible for anyone.”

In the second half of the meeting, delegates from Edogawa Ward, Adachi Ward and Nishitokyo City presented their localised methods of spreading disability sports among their residents. Taking three different approaches, the delegates exchanged opinions with experts from the several Dutch organisations such as the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, the Dutch Association for Sports and Municipalities, Knowledge Centre for Sports, NOC*NSF, and more. This fruitful discussion led to interesting new perspectives among the participants.

The expert meeting was concluded by Rita van Driel who reflected on the contributions of the various presenters and experts. She emphasised that the will to cooperate and further disability sports and Paralympic sports in both the Netherlands and Japan is admirable, and that the Game Changer project will invariably contribute to creating a positive legacy for the Tokyo 2020 Games.