International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Sir Philip Craven met with Tokyo’s Governor Koike on Thursday (23 February) and the two went head-to-head in a boccia match in front of the country’s media.
Governor Koike, who set-up a number of boccia teams within Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) after being impressed by the sport at the Rio 2016 Paralympics, challenged Sir Philip to a match during his last visit to Japan in October 2016 and the IPC President duly accepted.
Joining Sir Philip’s IPC team for the match was Rio 2016 mixed team BC1-2 boccia team silver medallist Hidetaka Sugimura, IPC Governing Board member Yasushi Yamawaki and IPC Chief Executive Offer Xavier Gonzalez.
Despite the team possessing a huge knowledge of the Paralympic Movement, they suffered an 8-0 drubbing at the hands of the TMG team which featured Governor Koike, Sugimura’s Rio 2016 silver medal winning teammate Takayuki Hirose, and TMG’s Tomohito Matsuzaka and Shinpei Usui.
After the match Sir Philip Craven said: “Despite the heavy loss at the hands of the well trained Governor’s team, the match was great fun and that’s what’s important. I would like to congratulate Governor Koike and TMG for their efforts in raising awareness of boccia, a Paralympic sport that is growing in popularity in Japan.
“Prior to the match Governor Koike mentioned that awareness of boccia since Rio 2016 has increased from two per cent to over 40 per cent and many TMG employees now play the sport each month. This is fantastic news as it is important that athletes with high support needs receive the credit they deserve for playing such a highly skilful sport such as boccia.
“Today’s match highlights the extent all delivery partners involved in Tokyo 2020 are going to in order to put on the best Paralympic Games ever.
“Everyone we have met this week has shown immense enthusiasm and commitment for the Paralympic Games and I leave Tokyo convinced that this city can stage something extremely special in three and a half years’ time.”
The boccia match with Governor Koike topped off a busy week for the IPC President which kicked off on Monday when he met Akio Toyoda, President of the Toyota Motor Corporation, and other senior Toyota Executives in Toyoda City.
A day later on Tuesday he helped launch I’m Possible, a new education initiative by the IPC’s development arm the Agitos Foundation which has been translated into Japanese thanks to the support of the Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Centre and the Japanese Paralympic Committee.
A meeting with Japanese Prime Minster Abe was the highlight of Wednesday, a day when he also gave a media briefing and met the new President of broadcaster NHK Ryoichi Ueda.
As well as meeting Governor Koike on Thursday, Sir Philip met Hirokazu Matsuno, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister in charge of Education Rebuilding. In the afternoon he gave a talk to hundreds of Tokyo 2020 and TMG about his aspirations for the Paralympic Games in 2020.