My participation in the policy forum has been a very fruitful one and made me reflect on several fronts, but I would like to summarize it in two main points:
1). The importance of working hand in hand between academics and policy makers. Most of the UK academics who participated at the policy forum, including myself, have dedicated many years of their career in the specialist area of Paralympic Games and social inclusion developing a deep knowledge understanding of a multifaceted nature if this field. And we were particularly keen to be offered the opportunity to share our expertise with Japanese policy officials in order to reflect on change in policy, which can be of benefit for people with disabilities. Indeed the policy forum, hosted in the House of Representatives (Japanese Parliament), was an enormous success and triggered some thought provoking conversations.
Although most all of the participants at the policy forum shared a common passion and willingness to utilize the Paralympic Games as a catalyst to generate generated social legacies there was also some disparity between what different participants considered to be priority areas.
There was a long discussion about the need to remove infrastructural barriers (such as wheelchair ramps and stores without step-free access) and I had the impression that Japanese policy makers are now aware that they should take action to make cities in Japan more inclusive and accessible
for people with disabilities. However I had the impression that policy makers struggled to understand that many of the barriers that people with disabilities are facing are also of an attitudinal nature. I was able during my stay in Tokyo to realise that several discriminatory terms (such as ‘mentally retarded..’) are still widely used. Local journalists definitely need training
prior to the Games on how to report about Paralympic Sport in a way that empowers people with disabilities and this sense I am willing to offer the valuable experience that I gained from the media training toolkit that I developed prior to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
2). Disparity between the positive image that London 2012 has generated abroad and the negative findings of our studies. The London 2012 Paralympic Games have generated a very positive impression in Japan as the Games that managed to create a sustainable positive legacy. In several occasions during my stay in Tokyo, Japanese colleagues and important stakeholders cited London 2012 as an example to follow. However, as discussed during the policy forum there are indeed lessons that can be
learned from 2012 however there is a contrast between this positive reputation that London 2012 has managed to create and the results of several academic studies which point the contrary. In a recently published paper that I have co-authored with my ex PhD student Dr. Chris Brown
(Brown & Pappous 2012) we gathered evidence that an absence of coordinated leveraging of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and a decline in the media coverage of disability sport in the aftermath of the Games have dulled the legacy.