The enduring legacy of the Tokyo Games for equestrian sport in Japan

  • Tokyo’s Olympic and Paralympic legacy will be felt in Japan long after memories of this summer’s sport have faded, with the tangible site of the equestrian park and the wider rise of horseback riding that accompanied the Games.

    The redeveloped Baji Koen Equestrian Park, itself a legacy of the canceled 1940 Olympics and the 1964 Games, will remain in place for the benefit of equestrian sport in Japan.

    The original plan proposed by the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee called for a temporary location in the Tokyo Bay area. But the Japan Racing Authority (JRA), which owns and manages the equestrian park, and the Japanese Equestrian Federation pushed for reuse of the facilities in 1964.

    The complete renovation included the construction of a brand new veterinary clinic, which is there for the future, as well as the modernization of the arena and other facilities.

    “We started planning the redevelopment of the site even before Tokyo was granted the right to host the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” said Takahiro Nishi, adviser to the equestrian affairs division of the JRA.

    “The equestrian park was not originally built to meet the specific needs and requirements of people with disabilities. But through our preparations for the Paralympic Games, we have gained a better understanding of what we need to do to create a safe and welcoming structure that allows people with different disabilities to fully enjoy all that equestrian sport has to offer.

    “All of our development plans have been created to include accessibility requirements for people with disabilities, so the equestrian park, which also functions as a municipal park, can provide clear benefits to our community even after the Games are over. Paralympics. “

    The high-tech sole installed for the Games, which is made of sand with 1.5% polyester textile fibers, is expected to last 20 years with the right maintenance, while the state-of-the-art JRA-funded veterinary clinic is another legacy. sustainable.

    “In 2016, the JRA demolished the former Baji Koen veterinary clinic and built these fabulous facilities so that we can provide optimal care for Olympic and Paralympic horses during the Games. And that has a double benefit as a big investment for the future, ”said Hiroko Aida, JRA veterinarian and head of veterinary services for Tokyo 2020.

    Acknowledgement

    The growth of Japan’s strength in the Olympic equestrian disciplines was well documented before and during the Games. The JRA and the riders now hope that the Paralympic legacy will boost equestrian sport for the disabled in the country.

    The JRA plans to create courses to allow riders involved in therapeutic programs to gradually move to para dressage competition. He also plans to invest in increasing the currently small number of therapeutic riding clubs in the country.

    Paralympic dressage rider Sho Inaba, 26, expressed his hope that the Games as a whole will increase the visibility of disabled sport in Japan.

    “The Paralympic Games, as a whole, not just equestrian, allow people to see that no matter what disability is, if they do their best they can do almost anything,” he said.

    His teammate Mitsuhide Miyaji added, “So far there has been little recognition of para sports in this country. But the Paralympic Games have been a good opportunity for many people to learn more about para-equestrianism and for them to see how people with various disabilities can get involved in the sport.

    Mr Miyaji added that there had been no Para Equestrian coverage of the Rio 2016 Games, where he also competed, in Japan, but there was a lot going on as Tokyo approached.

    “It allowed people to see for themselves what the sport has to offer. In addition, by involving so many people in Japan in the organization of the Paralympic Games, it has helped to change the perception of para-equestrian sport in the country, ”he said.

    Tokyo Heritage: “Hope, Solidarity and Peace”

    Organizing these Games during a pandemic was an almighty risk and challenge. The price of the one-year delay is estimated at $ 2.8 billion (£ 2.02 billion), bringing the final bill to $ 15.4 billion (£ 11.13) – although some believe that the figure is higher. Market researchers Ipsos MORI studied global attitudes towards the rescheduled Games in the weeks leading up to the opening ceremony, finding that 78% of those polled in Japan did not believe the event should take place.

    Add to that the fact that Japan declared a state of emergency covering the Tokyo region on July 8, due to the increase in Covid cases, which meant additional restrictions throughout the Games, no spectators and very few foreign volunteers.

    Despite all this, Tokyo has achieved a Games of “hope, solidarity and peace”, as summarized by President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach.

    Importantly, it also delivered Games where the cumulative rate of positive Covid tests was extremely low – 0.03% as of September 8, or in real terms, 312 positive samples from 1,017,190 drug tests.

    “For the first time since the start of the pandemic, the whole world has come together. Sport has returned to center stage, ”said Bach. “Billions of people around the world have been united in emotion, sharing moments of joy and inspiration. It gives us hope. This gives us confidence in the future.

    • What was your highlight of the Tokyo Games? Send your thoughts to [email protected], indicating your name, nearest city and country, and you could win a bottle of Taittinger Champagne

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