The London 2012 Paralympics starts Thursday (Wednesday local time) with some 4,300 physically disabled athletes from 166 countries and regions taking part in 20 sports. From Japan, 135 athletes will participate in 17 sports. It is hoped that the Paralympics, which will continue through Sept. 9, will give excitement, joy and inspiration to people around the world who watch the games as did the London 2012 Olympics.

This year’s Paralympics is historically significant because the origin of the Paralympics is said to go back to a sports event in 1948 in the London suburbs in which World War II veterans competed. The London Paralympics will serve as a chance for athletes, team officials and the audience to appreciate the spirit of the Paralympics. It is hoped that the London event will lead to more efforts to enlarge the participation of people with physical disabilities to take part in and enjoy sports at the grassroots level.

The main staffers of London’s organizing committee this time are those who worked for organizing the London Olympics. They have experience in helping and supporting athletes. The management of the London Paralympics will go smoothly.

The Olympics and the Paralympics are becoming fused. The same organizing committee started managing both the Olympics and the Paralympics from the Beijing games in 2008. In London, the Paralympics athletes will stay in the athletes’ village that was used for the London Olympics, They will eat in the same large eating facility used during the Olympic summer games, and the meals will be the same as during the Olympic games.

The uniform of Japan’s Paralympics participants is almost of the same design as the uniform of Japanese athletes who took part in the London Olympics.

In the ceremony to mark the participants’ entering the athletes’ village, they were welcomed by the performance of singing and dance with the accompaniment of the same British rock band that played at the time of the London Olympics.

These days, some disabled athletes take part in both the Olympics and the Paralympics. The competitive skills of top athletes with disabilities are improving. But care must be taken so that the participation in the Paralympics will not be limited to elite athletes. At the grassroots level, more efforts must be made to make sports facilities more convenient to people with physical disabilities.

To increase their skills, some disabled Japanese athletes go abroad to be coached by athletes without physical disabilities who participated in the Olympic games. It is hoped that more chances will crop up for Paralympic athletes to get advice from their Olympic counterparts and that they will encourage each other.

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