Paralympics Pioneer

Japan has been the (unlikely) prime mover in the development of the Paralympics movement, says Professor Dennis Frost, which is a surprising fact given the country’s nearly total inexperience with disability sports in the early 1960s, when it made the monumental decision to host the 1964 Paralympics in Tokyo. Since that time Japan has provided foundational contributions to the expansion of the Paralympics, including: stronger links to the Olympics; expansion of participation from a single category (spinal cord injury) to multiple categories of disability; growth in the number of largescale regional and international events; the evolution of Paralympic focus from rehabilitation to elite competition; exponential growth in media coverage; and the movement’s effect on social changes, including barrier free environments and inclusion more generally. Frost is the Wen Chao Chen Associate Professor of East Asian Social Sciences. The Paralympics movement in Japan (and the world), he says, is a complicated and imperfect success story (still being written) about the effect of large events like the Paralympic Games and (even more so) of people on the course of durable changes to society. His K-Talk is based on his recent book: More Than Medals: A History of the Paralympics and Disability Sports in Postwar Japan.