Organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics on Tuesday marked six months until the opening of the games.
Athletes and officials commemorated the milestone with a ceremony at Ariake Nishi Gakuen in Tokyo’s Koto Ward, one of the elementary schools selected for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s Paralympic “supporting schools” program.
Around 110 third-grade pupils formed the numeral “6” in the grounds of the school, which has been conducting Paralympic-focused activities aimed at helping children better understand the lives of people with disabilities.
In conjunction with the ceremony, sprinter and long jumper Chiaki Takada, who is aiming to win her first Paralympic medal when she competes in the Aug. 25 to Sept. 6 games, shared her experiences with the children.
Some 4,400 athletes from around 170 countries are set to take part in the games in Tokyo with 540 gold medals up for grabs across 22 sports.
Having returned from Rio de Janeiro four years ago with 10 silver and 14 bronze medals, Japan has set the lofty target of winning 20 gold medals as host.
After taking applications last August and September, organizers sold around 600,000 tickets in the opening round of the Paralympic ticket lottery.
With some 390,000 applicants, the lottery became the biggest in the history of the games, attracting three times the number of applicants as the 2012 London Games. The second-round lottery in January drew an additional 200,000 applicants.
Despite the International Olympic Committee’s decision to relocate the Olympic marathon to Sapporo to protect athletes from Tokyo’s high temperatures in August, the International Paralympic Committee decided against such a move for the Paralympic marathon.
IPC President Andrew Parsons met with the local organizing committee in October to discuss the possibility of relocation before announcing that the Paralympic marathon, scheduled for the final day of the games, would remain in Tokyo.
Despite concerns about the impact of heat and humidity on para athletes, some of whom have difficulty regulating body temperature, the organizers decided the timing of the event, roughly a month later than the Olympic marathon, meant it could be held safely in Tokyo.
However, the Paralympic marathon, held across three athlete classifications for men and two for women, will start at 6:30 a.m., half an hour earlier than originally planned, in the interest of athlete safety.