Local Initiatives2020 Venue
[Part 1] Izu City’s diversity, inclusion efforts given boost by Tokyo GamesIZU CITY, Shizuoka Pref.
The Izu Velodrome has a somewhat extraterrestrial appearance. Set amid lush woodland on the outskirts of Izu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, with Japan’s iconic Mt. Fuji forming a majestic backdrop, the glistening silver domed structure resembles some spaceship from a sci-fi film readying to spin off into the stratosphere.
Echoes of this futuristic facade can be found even among the more mundane features of the stadium, which is set to house track and road cycling events during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics—put back a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ramps, specially designed elevators for wheelchair users and other facilities have each been implemented in a forward-looking approach to make the stadium more welcoming for all comers, and reflect continuing efforts in the city to embrace diversity and inclusion.
The city’s renown as a tourist destination—its hot springs have been soothing visitors for more than a millennium—gave it a foundation on which to build a universal design strategy and hosting the Games added significant momentum, officials say.
“We believed for the future of the city we must think about universal design and accessibility, and the Olympics and Paralympics offer a great opportunity as an important stepping stone toward attaining that,” says Mayu Watanabe of Izu City’s Olympic and Paralympic promotion division.
“We have looked at implementing ways to make the city more accessible for those with disabilities and for foreigners and anyone else who visits, and the Games have helped us speed up that process.”
On a national level, there has been a concerted push to improve accessibility on transportation networks and accommodations, highlighted by Japan’s first ordinance, enacted in 2019, to make at least one percent of guestrooms at larger hotels and inns barrier-free for wheelchair users.
Izu Velodrome also has incorporated essential hardware changes, chiefly to boost its seating capacity—including for wheelchair users—in line with official Games requirements. But Watanabe says financial constraints have meant other efforts in the city toward achieving inclusivity goals have focused on less tangible “software” features centering on the theme of hospitality.
Among them, the Izu Association for the Deaf has held courses for high school students to teach them sign language and raise awareness of the difficulties faced by those with auditory difficulties, according to the association’s Keiko Morishima.
The association has been holding such courses targeting the general public for more than 15 years and gives regular talks at elementary schools.
More recently, however, they have had one eye on the Tokyo Games, teaching students signs for basic greetings as well as those for critical facilities such as “hospital” and “doctor,” says Morishima, 71.
“We hope students and other local residents will be able to assist people with hearing difficulties and make them feel more welcome,” she says.