Torino Paralympics Handball 2006, 2 teams sitting down on court
Handball @ the Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games

Despite the large body of work produced over the last decade or so that has examined major sport event legacies and event leverage, largely with respect to the Olympic Games, Misener, Darcy, Legg, and Gilbert (2013) claim that “few studies have evaluated the comparative outcomes, legacies and event leverage that the Paralympic Games have generated” (p. 1). This is despite the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) Strategic Plan (2015-2018) claiming that the ultimate aspiration of the Paralympic Movement is “to make for a more inclusive society for people with an impairment through para-sport” and that “The Paralympic Games are the world’s number one sporting event for transforming society’s attitudes towards impairment” (IPC, 2016).

In 2020 Tokyo, Japan, will become the first city to host the Paralympic Games twice, having previously hosted them in 1964. This, therefore, provides an ideal opportunity to both meet the aims of this grant, whilst at the same time attempting to fill the void in information outlined by Misener et al above.

This project has been designed to build a knowledge base between researchers from the UK, who have previous experience of investigating the impact of Paralympic sport upon the lives of people with a disability (PWD) (particularly with London 2012, which many see as a benchmark for this process), with researchers from Japan in order to better understand the processes involved in generating a meaningful and lasting social impact from the Paralympic Games for Japanese society, but also whether the cultural context has a bearing upon the outcomes.

This could potentially assist future Paralympic host cities to better leverage positive impacts from hosting the Games.

Japan will host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020, and this event context provides an ideal opportunity for Japanese and UK researchers to collaborate and foster a collaborative network with which to pursue an agenda concentrated on leveraging this event to the benefit of people with disabilities in Japan.

As Misener et al (2018) have suggested, when significant investments in infrastructure, facilities, transport and sporting support is made to host a mega sport event like the Paralympic Games, then there needs to be clear evidence that the proposed beneficiaries have indeed benefitted from it. This project aims to bring together a sustainable network of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities (SSH) researchers in the UK and Japan that will both strengthen current relations as well as create new ones in the field of disability and Paralympic sport (DPS) and, in particular, how the Paralympic Games in Tokyo 2020 impacts upon the lives of people with disabilities (PWD) in Japan, both positively or negatively, in trying to achieve the Tokyo Organising Committee’s stated aim of a more inclusive and less discriminatory society (TOCOG, 2013; p.66).

In order to achieve this, the project includes the following objectives:

  • To create a network of Japanese and UK SSH researchers (experienced and early career) in the area of DPS, particularly with reference to its potential social impacts and to develop a programme of knowledge sharing in the field through collaborative discussion, sharing of knowledge and identification of training needs
  • To foster inter-disciplinary research between SSH researchers in Japan and the UK in the area of DPS, drawing on the fields of sport studies, sport development, urban geography, cultural studies and sociology that will lead to new understandings of the potential of DPS to change the lived experience of people with disabilities.
  • To co-create a series of interdisciplinary methodologies to study the area of DPS, including a focus on more participatory research methodologies and methods, working with PWD in the design, data collection, and analysis stages.
  • To develop strategies for impact for Japanese and UK SSH researchers in the area of DPS where research outcomes reach beyond the academic community to influence, and be used by, other researcher users.
  • To increase UK and Japanese SSH researchers’ awareness and knowledge of the importance of cultural context in research, contextualising the differences and commonalities in each country in how DPS is constituted, historically and in the present time.
  • To scope a longitudinal research project that would take place in the lead up to, during and for at least three years after the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games around the social impact of DPS, and to collaboratively write a larger funding application resources this work.

In creating an interdisciplinary network of experienced and early career researchers developing, collaboratively, suitable theories, methodologies and impact activities that recognise differential cultural contexts, the proposed project will address a number of key questions pertaining to DPS:

  1. What evidence exists in the UK and Japan for the effective leveraging of major parasport events (i.e. the Paralympic Games) to produce beneficial outcomes for PWD in both countries and how can this evidence be share more effectively?
  2. What can an interdisciplinary approach contribute to understanding of how major parasport events can be used to improve health, increase participation, enhance transport infrastructure and develop the sport system in both Japan and the UK?
  3. How can PWD be more effectively involved as participants and end users of research into the value of major parasport events in enhancing the lived experiences of PWD, and at what stages?
  4. How can the outputs of research into major parasport events and social outcomes be most effectively translated into policy interventions, and with what impact?
  5. How can the importance of differential cultural contexts be captured and translated into more effective research approaches and policy outcomes?