Paralympics planning for student crowds

Tokyo Paralympics organisers plan to have students attend the Games despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tokyo Paralympics organisers plan to have students attend the Games despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Plans are afoot to allow tens of thousands of school children to attend the Tokyo Paralympics despite the coronavirus delta variant spreading among teenagers and those even younger who are not vaccinated.

The Paralympics open Tuesday and run through September 5. All other fans have been banned, as they were for the Olympics. About 4400 athletes are expected from about 160 countries and territories.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has said she is pressing ahead to allow school children to attend the Paralympics, as long as parents and schools are supportive. News reports say the number of students involved is between 130,000 and 140,000.

Tokyo is under a COVID-19 state of emergency through September 12.

About 40 per cent of the Japanese population is fully vaccinated. Tokyo reported 5074 new cases on Saturday. It marked the first time the capital has logged more than 5000 cases for four consecutive days. Daily new cases have increased sharply since the Olympics opened on July 23.

Tokyo reported 4392 new cases on Sunday. Japan has attributed about 15,500 deaths to COVID-19.

Hospital capacity in Tokyo has become so tight that those not deemed ill enough for hospital admission are getting oxygen supplied at home or at makeshift facilities set up for emergencies.

The Tokyo organising committee and the International Paralympic Committee also back the plan for student fans. They argue it's important to have students view athletes with disabilities, which could change attitudes in a relatively conservative society like Japan.

"This generation is the one that will sustain our society in the future, and so we are absolutely passionate about providing this opportunity," Tokyo organising committee spokesman Masa Takaya said.

In an interview a few days ago, IPC President Andrew Parsons said he supported the plan - with a caveat.

"We endorse the initiative because we believe it is an important element of legacy by bringing school kids to the games," Parsons said. "But of course, it is imperative these kids must come to the games in a safe way."

Australian Associated Press