Tokyo 2020 comes on the back of a Paralympic Games that was almost cancelled due to a lack of funding and poor management. Just 4 years earlier, London has been hailed as a huge success with over double the crowds of the games before it and an enormous rise in public and media backing.
Chris Holmes was in charge of Paralympic integration and was a key architect in making London 2012 what it was. We find out just how he made London so successful and what Tokyo has to do to make sure it doesn't lose the huge momentum.
Chris has been called Britain’s most successful Paralympic swimmer winning a total of 9 golds, 5 silvers and 1 bronze. His involvement with the Games continued as Director of Paralympic Integration at London 2012 and now as Deputy Chair of Channel 4, as Channel 4 continue a longstanding commitment to Paralympic sport securing the broadcast rights for both Tokyo and Paris 2024. In the House of Lords Chris’s policy areas are digital technology for the public good, employment, education, inclusion and, of course, culture, media and sport.
Episode 13 How to Make a Paralympic Games
Tue, 3/2 1:02PM • 56:48
paralympics, people, japan, tokyo, games, london, paralympic games, paralympic, rio, athletes, absolutely, opportunity, sport, chris, sense, sensational, stories, trafalgar square, fabulous, won
What do you think is happening here? University Sports Day, Julie from accounts winning the employee the month award at a midsize firm. No. This is the crowd reaction to Dennis Ola winning gold in the 1980s the games and this
is the noise of Alan Davies winning gold at the 2012 Paralympic Games. It's not that Dennis was deeply unpopular or that Alan Davies was a national icon before winning in 1988. The Paralympics just didn't have anywhere near as much public support behind it. In 2012, London broke all the expectations for the Paralympics could be just four years before Beijing had been hailed as a great success selling 1.2 million tickets. But London doubled that record. It marked a turning point for the Paralympic movement with huge public immediate support. Maybe British people just had a deep love for disabled sport, or a natural passion to make the game success. According to today's guests, that's absolutely not the fact. With Rio 2016 almost becoming the first in history to fail and not open. It shows the Paralympic path is not only positive. In today's episode, we're talking to Chris Holmes, Lord of Richmond. Once he was done collecting nine gold medals in his Paralympic career as a blind swimmer. Chris ended up as the integration manager for the London 2012 Paralympic Games and was the key architect behind the strategy that made London 2012 the games they were with Tokyo 2020 2021 already under huge pressure and uncertainty with COVID-19 and a waning public appetite. We wanted to find out why London was so successful, and what Tokyo could do to take the next step on the Paralympic journey.
Lord Holmes of Richmond, what do we call you tonight? Chris? So Mike, it's not your holiness.
Okay. All those years in public school, and I never did learn.
Thank you, Chris, for giving up so much of your Thursday evening to come and talk to us on Japan sports stories. Just just to set the scene for tonight. Well, this is a conversation that I had in my house less than 10 minutes before we came on my nine year old son so he said, but you're talking to you tonight and I said Chris Holmes, who's Chris Holmes. He's one of Britain's most successful Paralympians ever and Britain's most Britain's most successful swimmers. Oh, what did he win? Well, in Barcelona, he won six gold medals in one games. Wow. That's incredible. How many did you win that he won? Welcome, Chris Holmes, to Japan's ovaries.
Great, great to be here. And what your son is still yet to realise is that your medal was an equally stunning medal in Barcelona. And indeed, for many games after that,
you're too kind. So first question, Chris. Before we start talking about sport, and we start talking about Japan, as a registered line person, how is lockdown being for you? Because there's been a lot of Yep, we're on offence to you for the blind, in amazing campaign around awareness surrounding, you know, the challenges faced by blind and visually impairment, impaired people in lockdown. But how has it been? for you personally,
it's been pretty tough. And in no sense would overstate that. Because I know, many, many people and many groups of people have had an extraordinarily tough time of it. And all of my thoughts go out to everybody who's lost somebody through COVID, those who had life changing effect of COVID. So in no senses, it be at that extent at all. But it has been hard in terms of just walking down the street with my guide, dog, Nancy, and people, perhaps not social distance to you. And oftentimes, it's been me stepping out of the way to let them pass, which is ironic, because I can't see anything at all. But I can obviously hear them coming and get a sense that they're not going to move on. So it certainly it makes things a lot more difficult not be able to say anything, but I wouldn't, I wouldn't in any sense seek to compare it with people who've had such such a terrible time from this vicious, vicious virus.
Have you had some positive you had to do? I personally have had some amazing acts of kindness, I'd be on the receiving end of have some amazing acts of kindness, not least switching from staff in supermarkets, or people helping me get on and off public transport safely. So I'm sure there have been some instances of that with yourself as well,
completely, I think, as I imagined at the outset has largely come true that when you have situations like this, you see the absolute best and the absolute worst of people. The great news is that the absolute The best of people is probably 95%. And then there's 5% of the worst of people, but just stunning acts of kindness and people just far more looking out for one another. And you can feel that. So it demonstrates that it has the potential to enable us during and, crucially post fires to potentially connect in a different way as individuals and as communities.
That's a wonderful message to start this podcast on. Chris, thank you very much for that. Mike.
After 2000 after Sydney, you decided to retire from your parent MBA career. What did you get into after Sydney,
it's always tough to know when to leave sports. I think I had a fabulous four games on the team. But coming out of Sydney, I thought it was time to do something else I qualified. I'd done politics at Cambridge yes before but I have to save the I qualify did the Law Society files and qualifies the lawyer went to work at a really good firm in the City of London do commercial law got stuck into that I was fantastic. I really again, another really good high performance environment, really supportive, really collegiate fabulous friendships still from that time, and probably would have stayed as a lawyer. But for one thing, the fact that there was an opportunity to put an Olympic and Paralympic Games bid together to potentially get the games to come back to this country for the first time in 64 years, in the summer of 2012. I got heavily involved with the beard, as many of us did. And then was fortunate enough to work on the games and to then go go in full time as director of Paralympic integration. And it still is some of the best work I've ever done in my life.
Can Can you remember? Or can Sorry, can you I'm sure you can remember Can you put into words what it felt like on the seventh of July 2005, when the envelope was opened,
absolutely extraordinary. I stayed in the UK could have gone out to Singapore decision but stayed at this end at the UK. And I was in Trafalgar Square. And there were many people involved with the bid who were in a bar on the edge of the square that we had hired to, to have for it. I thought now I want to get right into the square. I want to get down into the people who just gathered people in their lunch if you can just come to square realise that something was going down people all kinds of back. I want to get amongst that being in that crowd. When we had surely the longest envelope opening in history, and the greatest theatrical pause
the International Olympic Committee
that moment, I think epitomised what we've done at that stage, but of the Pitta Mize what everything that we've said in the bid, and everything that we then had seven years to plan and deliver in the summer of 2012. A games that would truly bring everyone together, inspire a generation, connect young people and all people right around the world through the power of sport. I think you saw it as live as anything just before 1pm in Trafalgar Square, when people who perhaps had absolutely nothing to do with sports, or perhaps didn't even like sport, but absolutely jubilant because the games are coming to this country. And I think probably the most poignant period was that sense of elation, achievement, exhaustion. We've been working on this for over two years. Absolute exhaustion but elation that we'd won this prize. And then less than 24 hours later, three bombs went off on London Underground trains and a fourth bomb on a London bus. And that was still day one of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games planning journey towards 2012.
I think it's it's one thing to say you're to get the games as an entirely different thing. And I think you, you your humility is is on a par with your athletics, as it says here but you haven't been appointed director of integration. You then had to Deliver the greatest Paralympic games that the world had ever seen. And it was by no means a given that it was it was going to be the greatest games and and the context was not always you know, it wasn't a bed of roses was it you had to deal with a slightly reticent media. town a little, you had to deal with a slightly sceptical public, how
did you go about instilling that appetite for parasport. And that sense of belief, as you rightly say, it was an incredible opportunity, but in no sense, an inevitability to give some quantitative and qualitative detail on that. When I started, I knew that we had the opportunity to do something sensational in London, yes, with the Olympic Games, but absolutely, with the Paralympic Games to just create a whole new Paralympic paradigm. And what I was faced with in terms of the research, I wanted everything that we did to be reached in research. So we'd know every step of the journey, what we were doing. The quantitative analysis told me that 0% of people were prepared to say they were strongly likely to buy a ticket to come to the Paralympic Games, I knew we had to sell out, we're going to create a new power into paradigm and 0% of people are saying that at this stage, in the call groups in the focus groups, we had comments such as, why would I buy a ticket to that? I spend my life trying to avoid those people 21st century Britain, nobody should view what we were able to achieve as a team, putting on the 2012 Paralympic Games. The takeouts from that are not that this was an inevitability they were not that London, the UK had a unique the positive perspective and culture in terms of disabled people they were not that there was huge spectator broadcast commercial appetite for this. It was a journey that had to be taken step by step conversation by conversation, contact by contact sponsor by sponsor broadcaster by broadcaster, no way to speed through it. And that journey started with the conversations that I had with other directors and other colleagues at the organising committee to try and inspire people into this possibility, the Paralympics, the games of the possible and what we could potentially potentially do in London in 2012. But it was, in essence, the most marvellous of culture transformation programmes, really, that's, that's what it was about. And we need everybody. We had new new staff coming on Monday, Monday morning, so always induction for new new staff. And imagine the ramp up as we went from an organisation of a few 100 to 8000 that games time, 70,000 volunteers, over 100,000 contractors, all of whom had to have I believed this same passion for the Paralympics, I went to all the inductions to ensure that people heard it from me. I went to all of the volunteer sessions to ensure that when they had their training that they heard from me what I wanted from them, why knew they could bring to this if they could get inside this sense of the essence of the games, what it could be what it could have been in many of the previous games, but for a whole series of reasons wasn't
How did you manage to get Boris Johnson playing wheelchair tennis?
That was a sensational event at a year to go. And, again, I I saw a possibility that we had, there was a thing called International Paralympic day. But up until we started getting involved at London 2012 International Paralympic day, had never happened outside Germany.
I don't think I don't ever recall.
No. And I felt again, if we, if we were going to have this potential games, it couldn't just happen. We have what I called stadium conversions in the summer of 2012. That's too late. We need people to become Paralympic spectators and supporters way before that in the same way that they would support us. Olympic athletics or Chelsea, or any other sport, that's where it needs to be not coming out of interest not coming from a sense of worthiness, certainly not coming from a sense of concern or nervousness or eggshell walking on they wouldn't be able to enjoy it. They need to be absolutely coming to spectate and to rule their Paralympic champions to gold, silver and bronze, so I figured, let's do International Paralympic day, at a year to go. And the day after, we'll put Paralympic tickets on sale. started this planning 18 months before one year to go. My budget for International Paralympic day was zero. We had sponsors what could they bring to bear let's get bt to put a track down and have sprint across the top of Trafalgar Square. Let's have Sainsbury's doing a sport trail through the square. Let's have all our partners up to the competition, engaged in a sitting volleyball competition. And the two finalists can play sitting volleyball in front of the world's media, in photo square channel for our broadcast partner. Let's have them filming all day. And let's get them to our channel for news live from Trafalgar Square that evening. All of this getting people to come to collaborate to create a thing, how can we make something a budget of zero? no budget line at all for it? How potentially Can I get people to see the opportunity that we have here and exactly as you say at the centre of it at lunchtime when people were coming out of their offices, Mayor of London then Boris Johnson against Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, playing wheelchair tennis in front of the world's media picture of the day, the next day, the Wall Street Journal and The Guardian and so many other public patients put across the world's broadcasters. And that next day, we put tickets on sale and the first fortnight we did 1.1 million ticket sales for the games, which was still 51 weeks away. That's when I saw people going. Yes, I see what you've been talking about now. Yes, I get it. Yes, this is sensational.
fantastic story. And I guess I would be one of the people that was reached because I was not meaning to make you sound any kind of older than you are I would have been 17 when this was happening. And it was my first kind of experience of the Paralympics was a wheelchair fencing demonstration event that got put on the exhale a little bit before the games in a kind of this also exists have a look at it. As soon as it was put in front of me. I was like, God, this is good. This is really exciting. This is something I want to get behind in the media, suddenly, you just had the Paralympic athletes doing what they do best and everyone got really excited just by them being visible.
All those stories make me truly so happy because it was fabulous to get people to buy the tickets to become enthusiasts and spectators and starting to get some real knowledge about the Paralympic Games about the sports and about the great British Paralympians who may be on that medal rostrum. But it is so happy making for me every time I hear stories such as yours, when people go, as the regular. I saw this, I thought, I want to be part of that. And then we make the Paralympians of the future. And even more than that, not just Paralympians of the future, but potentially enabling that fabulous, bright light of sport of possibilities to be switched on, people stepping onto a track for the first time getting into a swimming pool for the first time when prior to that maybe they thought that was never going to be possible. It was a separate world where disabled people were not welcome and couldn't participate that sense of well, having won the rights to stage the games, the responsibility of the opportunity that was in my, in all of my colleagues hands, because a great part of it was switching on that light of possibilities for people in so so so many different ways.
Having worked in the media at at 2012. So I was working for the BBC News Channel and to all intents and purposes was spectating at my first Paralympic Games having competed in six, it was incredible to see the way that the country and the city embrace the Paralympic movement and hear city boys talking about Johnny peacocks race on the train on the way home and have a conversation with a cab driver and children in the stands saying they wanted to make cardboard prosthesis at school the next day
there was a the reach of the games was was was was phenomenal. Did the games exceed even your expectations? I had incredibly high expectations I'd set myself and the Team incredibly high targets. Because we weren't going to get a second go at this. The vast majority of it didn't surprise me. Because we planned it. We tested it with envision envisaged it. It pleased me beyond no end. But I think things so many things stuck in my mind, the noise of the athletic Stadium, beyond the human noise, something and an energy more than a noise. There were only two moments at both Olympic Games 2012 and Paralympic Games when the whole 8000 stage or athletics ruled and athletes name one Mo Farah at the Olympics, the other at the Paralympics when 80,000 people ruled Shawnee peacocks named teenager from the start blocks stands up, puts his finger to his lips to silence 80,000 spectators roaring his name to he can go back down to his blocks and power home for gold on the track that Thursday evening. Those moments are just way more than the gold of the metal.
absolutely incredible. Thank you for letting us relive some of those moments. It really was an incredible time to be a Paralympian and a British Paralympian and to be part of that family. And part of that, that legacy.
So shall we we're going to skip on one games before we started talking about the upcoming Paralympics in Tokyo 20 plus 21. So with the documentary that came out recently, in Rising Phoenix Rio was bought very much into the spotlights of being a Paralympics, it almost didn't happen as the organiser of one of the organisers of the most successful Paralympics ever in the revolutionary Paralympics. How did that make you feel? Were you disappointed in it? Do you worry that maybe the London 2012 legacy was a one off,
I was appalled, disgusted, and enraged with what Rio did with the precious property at the Paralympic Games. We had, as a team, as a nation achieve so much with the games. And we passed it on to Rio, we gave them all of our learnings, everything that we'd done everything. And they had an additional four years, and the people who worked on the games, people at manager level and all the works on the games were heroes, and absolutely had the vision of what they could be in tried everything to make it happen. The people who are around the top table on the Organising Committee for Rio should still be staring at their shoes, in shame for what they did, to the extent of not only not exceeding what London did, and they had that opportunity. And I'd have been the most pleased person on the planet. If they had done it. They had all of our learnings, everything that we'd done. Not only did they not exceed an eclipse, what we'd done in London, the games almost didn't happen. Because of what they've done with the budget because of what they've done in terms of disrespecting the Paralympic Games, the hero of the hour, the mayor of Rio, a matter of weeks before when all of us were working to reframe the games to reschedule it to slash service levels for all the client groups bar, the athletes were able to work and help to ring fence everything so the athletes experienced the athletes transport everything will be unaffected. A matter of weeks before the games, the mayor of Rio released $50 million to enable the games to go on. And everybody who worked on those games was a hero and a heroine who worked and believed in what it could be. But they were working from a base that had never been built from budgets that had never been allocated. And what happened in Rio was disgraceful. And an insult to all of the athletes who committed the training of their lives to get there and they deserved and they are entitled to have had a world class experience. Thank the Lord that games happened Thank the Lord that again the people of Rio came to the games in a very similar way to what you were saying earlier now with the people of Barcelona and nice to the people of Rio came and absolutely wrap their arms around the Paralympics and road preparing so if you're an athlete largely and thank God by games times, a great games, a great games, but nobody should be in any doubt. That was a heartbeat away from being no Paralympic Games, just four years after London.
Before we do get to Japan, and this is Japan support story, so bear with us for our listeners who are waiting for the connection because it's definitely coming. And I hope, like Mike and I, you've been in Thrall by Chris's story thus far. But what do you think it is about the Paralympic movement that resonates beyond economic and commercial interest that resonates with the very soul of the communities were of the host cities and I mean, in the most respectful of senses, resonates with the people of the street, you know, the soul of those countries and the soul of those communities? What do you think it is about the Paralympic movement?
I think you put it perfectly there and all it it does absolutely become part of the fabric, and the personality and the culture of the streets in which it's taking place. Because it speaks to us. It touches us it energises inspires unlocks us, because essentially, it enables us to feel truly something elemental about what it is to be born human.
I think that merited a few seconds pause just so people can take that in. Moving forward to Japan. When When did you first visited Japan? Did you ever compete there?
I never had the good fortune to compete or to go to Japan on business I grew up like I'm sure you did as well just being in all of Japanese technology right from the Casio digital watch right through to the gaming boxes, right through to everything that Yeah, and everything that they would do in motorcycles were growing and growing up as well. You know, we we didn't think our era wasn't the British motorcycle was it it was Kawasaki or Suzuki it was all of that. Just a kids growing up mind blowing this country, the rising sun of technology from Japan extraordinary. But I never had the great good fortune to go there until 2016. And I was fortunate enough to be connected with then mayor of Tokyo. And he invited me over to do a week of work and tours chatting to the people of TMG sports organisations and Nippon Foundation, the Japan Paralympic Association. And then, after I'd done a week with with him and his people in Tokyo, went down Tokyo for four days holiday and just checking out Japan. It's very simple for me to sum up the impact that Japan had on me. And it's just love. I fell in love with the place the people the field. It's just such an extraordinary special place. I was lucky enough to go back there to do some work with the Japan government in 2018. And again another another week of work and again we went we went down to Fukushima Prefecture to Mata Mia city to see what they were doing and their connection to the Paralympics, went up and spent a day in Calcutta. And again, it's just an incredibly special Nate nation and it both times I went there it It touched me in a really profound way. Not to mention, having as you would expect, imagine some of the most sensational food I've ever eaten from how, how can sushi be that fresh? How can the beef be just so melt in the mouth How can he be so warning in a unbelievably profound way, going early morning to the fish market in Tokyo? Oh, it's just energy going to Tokyo Central Station to get the bullet down to Kyoto, Tokyo Central Station is probably I would imagine, I don't know, 5678 times bigger than Kings Cross Station in London. And yet, I can't, couldn't speak a word of Japanese really a few words. And yet, no stress, no tension, no rushing, just a sense of, yes, the train will leave at this time from that platform. And that's how it will happen. It's just up there. That's how it did happen. And just to travel on the bullet train, again, that the technology which ushered in the 1964 Tokyo, Olympic Games, doing it through technology with chin cancer, absolutely stunning. But I knew the first time I went to Tokyo in 2016, the opportunity of 2020. And now 2020, and 2021, the opportunity for transformation is so much greater, even than the sensation that was the 1964 games.
And before we start sort of seeing Japan's praises, we can go to that in the recommendations part, I think might be a better way to talk about you had an advisory role of the inner Paralympic organisation for Tokyo. So this is the second games and when we had Kaz Walton on a few episodes ago, she said that 64 to her was a bit of a milestone because they had the Crown Prince at the time, it had a real sense of an inclusive games. What advice Did you or would you give, what did you give to that Paralympic Committee to say, Hey, this is how you can make it better.
It's the sense of doing everything to create an inclusive environment for everybody, athletes, spectators, the media, the press, everybody who's going to be part of the games. It's about setting a really clear, ambitious, and aspirational vision and mission. And only when you've done that, do you then drive it into all of the operational details that you'll need to bring about to make it a success? Don't get me wrong, you will all know there's an extraordinary cultural and physical challenge for Tokyo. And for Japan, it's a huge, huge challenge. But within that challenge, comes the most extraordinary of opportunities. And this was a disappointment, I think without dwelling on it. This was the disappointment for Rio and Brazil. They had such an opportunity in their hands for the 45 million disabled people of Brazil. And it's just gone by similarly, for Tokyo 2020. The opportunity is fabulously interesting to get your head into that space because it's about that sense of cultural transformation, a transformation of thought a reimagining of so much, not just to take the Paralympics, not just to take sport, but to take Tokyo and the whole nation of Japan into the next fabulous chapters that I know they have the potential to write. But absolutely i nobody should be naive as to the extent of the challenge, which every nation faces when they have the great good fortune of hosting a Paralympic Games.
My personal experiences a Paralympian going to Japan in 1992 and being welcomed with open arms been incredibly positive. Can you speak a little bit about how you feel parasport has been embraced in Japan both by the organisers, but by by the people of the country. What were your feelings visiting Japan,
I got a real sense that there was an energy a real desire and commitment to deliver on the Paralympic promise. And you could feel it it was tangible and a very respectful environment. A very correctly, serious environment. And when I when I went to both meet members of TMG, and indeed, members of the diet, the commitment of parliamentarians, and the understanding of parliamentarians was so incredibly positive and the energy which came from them was really palpable. It's, it's a phenomenal opportunity, which was Tokyo has, and it's the opportunity that every nation every city has, when they have Paralympic Games in their custody.
How important is the is the support of a proactive media because one of the things that I I say a lot when I get when I do talks about power sport in Japan, in Japan in Japanese is you know, I visited a bookstore in my wife's home city of Nakatsu, in Oita, prefecture, four years out, so 2016. And there were books on the shelves, there's a whole shelf devoted to the Paralympics four years out, and how to enjoy parasport. And what the various classifications meant, and who knows some of the stars from previous games, and how important is is sort of developing that awareness through the media, and
it's absolutely critical. And the job that NHK has done is sensational, the job that the OSI shimbashi has done is sensational. I remember talking to one of the senior journalists, the OSI shimbo in, in London, and it was an interview larger than what we were doing in London, we are in the midst of the games, but very much with that sense of what could the possibility be potentially the Tokyo if, if if they got 2020, I think the way that NHK connected very early on with what we were doing at Channel Four and the relationship that we've built with NHK with both their London Bureau, and indeed, back in back in Japan and TBS and others. It's absolutely critical that you have the press, the media and the broadcasters right behind this, promoting, pushing the Paralympic possibility from as early as possible. And I think, certainly, in Tokyo and across Japan. It's just so invigorating how early that commitment to communicate began. Obviously,
it's been postponed for for a year due to, you know, the small matters a global pandemic, but that notwithstanding, what do you think Tokyo's big challenges are the games next year?
I think there's a incredibly tough for the athletes, incredibly tough. Imagine all if we had been trading, and there is a sense of Okay, it's probably going to happen next year. But that's not certain. And by the way, it's incredibly difficult for you to get to your training venues anyway, in all the home countries around the world. For the athletes, my heart goes out extraordinarily tough, tough physical, and mental strain to put on anybody when they would have been trading for a 12 years for this to be the games of their lives. For Tokyo 2020 I think there's a real opportunity because it breaks the linear pattern, the four year cycle. And I think it enables Tokyo 2022 have a real opportunity. It will be it was always going to be a sensational games. It has the opportunity now to be a unique games, because the cycle is broken. So in a sense, it provides opportunities, it provides some freedoms. It provides a bit of space, both in terms of physical, emotional and psychological space around the games, both in the builder and during the games, both Olympic and Paralympic, to potentially do something so special as it always would have been if it had been this summer. But I think something unique because it's out of that linear cycle, the four year drumbeat, notwithstanding, the challenges are extreme, all of the COVID challenges which we would know about, but there's everything right from brass tacks about the need to really address the whole concept. of inclusive design, accessible environment and all of that I know, an extraordinary amount of work has been done on that incredibly tough challenge. That sense of the engagement piece, again, a heck of a lot of work has been done. The challenge is to do the games in such an extraordinary context. Such an extraordinary global context. But I honestly know even more than believe I honestly know that the potential now exists to do something completely and utterly and stunningly unique. Tokyo 2020, in the summer of 2021.
So you've travelled reasonably extensively in your work with the Japanese government.
If you had to recommend one place that the listeners to the Japan sport stories podcast visit in Japan, where would it be, every place that I've been fortunate enough to go to has been stunning, and there's so so many places still on my list, but without doubt, kiato was extraordinarily moving, and special, to go there. And just feel the wind on your face to go and take the time to do the philosopher's walk, and take half a day to do it. And just go into the various temples along the way. Sit down, and just be you don't have to do you just have to be in those spaces. And I fortunate to do it in 2016. I have to, I hope to, I will do it again. But one, one place this so many to go out there still, as they say when I know so little about the country and I am hungry to know more and visit more. But just to go to Kyoto and do the philosopher's war, and just be
fantastic. And I have to say, although I have a little functional sight, there is something unique about the sensory experience of Japan. Isn't that it is more than it's definitely for us more than what you can take it with your eyes. But I do agree, I think, stop, pause, sit and be is a perfect recommendation during your time in Japan was there other than other than food because I have to let Mike ask this question. Otherwise, you'll never do the podcast with me again. Was there one particular that experience if you did that stands out for you.
Take the bullet train, take Nozomi take any of the bullet trains and just marvel at the height of engineering, when that was done, how it's been updated, and how you can be travelling at such speed. And wherever you choose to have a coffee and Asahi beer just marvelled at the fact that you're travelling at that speed and there isn't even a ripple on the surface of your drink.
I'm a big fan of the bullet train as well. The one thing I regret is not taking the Hello Kitty train when I lived in Fiji I thought to myself every week I'll buy a ticket next week I bought a ticket next week and I never did and to this day will hold your home until I die I think
So onto onto the best recommendation and certainly my favourite recommendation and all your culinary experiences up and down Japan Can you recommend one food that you think all of our listeners should try whilst they're out there?
Now that is the hardest question of the whole podcast to narrow it down to one but if you so unfair
your Lord you can have three
guys so you you read my mind and the most beautiful way because I did have I did have three firstly Wagyu beef in what ever form you have it as a steak as a wagyu burger, sensational sushi in any form you can get it I have to say the best meal I had. When I was in Rio was at Japan house. The sushi they flew in a chef from Tokyo to do that. Dude in Japan house in Rio, it was the most sensational sushi. Get as much sushi as you can. But probably the number one would be but only if I'd been able to eat as much of the other two first of all, but the number one would be just the most sensational. How can you take a vegetable? How can you take a prawn? And just by the very fact of battering it, take it to a whole new level of culinary joyousness? Absolutely. That would be the number one. But if you do get a chance to get hold of some are naggy as well shows fortunate enough to be fed while I was there as well. The strength that you will get from it's all true what they say the strength from on it. Absolutely. We can't all be soldiers. But we've got an Aggie we can all be warriors.
podcast. I'm really sad. This is audio only. So I've never seen a man's face look quite so happy as they were describing to Emperor.
It's, it's, it's a special thing isn't their teeth? I suppose I should say for people if they haven't had the chance to have it ever. And if they haven't had the chance to have it in Japan. How can you make batteries so light? How can you just make a fabulous environment I must say and then who knows whether this will make the final cut. But when we went down to Mata Mia city in Fukushima, again, so fortunate to have the most extraordinary experience of staying overnight now the aka. And just having a meal made specially for us eating dinner in a kimono. Each course that was brought out was fabulous. I, to my disgrace can barely speak very many words of Japanese, the fabulous people serving us couldn't speak any English. And yet over the course of a three hour dinner, we connected through that sense of the understanding that we can all tune into, through having the great good fortune to have been born human and to have human connection, experience and emotion and, as you rightly said and old that the senses that you can tune into in Japan. no greater time for me than in a kimono in a real car. over a three hour dinner, food, wine Sahih and just human connection. It's It's a special, special special place and I desperately hoped to be there next summer, probably potentially. A year unique Paralympic Games.
Wonderful. Indeed. We have to ask you. Have you picked up any Japanese Chris? And and if so, out of the lexicon? lexicon?
Have you picked up any English?
I'm working on it. And do you have a favourite Japanese word? Shall I just put the question that way?
No, I'm gonna leave that.
There are so many, but I think probably all of my favourites do refer to foodstuffs, but I remember one of my regrets in 1995 because I just saw what was happening in Japan. I said I'm gonna learn Japanese. I'm gonna do it. I never did it and I regret I have similar linguistic shortcomings. When I was working as a lawyer there was a book fair and I was selling all the Rosetta Stone things I bought a massively discount I bought a I think is a 50 CD box set of Teach Yourself fluent Spanish. Never been out of cellophane. It's out. It's shocking. It's shocking. I I always bow down to you know, with your complete mastery of such a tricky language. And it's one thing that my my shortcomings are Tragically shameful. So, in terms of words, it would have to be everything to do with food, but always trying my best to ensure not difficult because it's always heartfelt, but to give the best added Gatto.
And he got thought, indeed, you got the wonderful, Chris. And And one final question. And I think this is very good. And then, by way, so I can I can only imagine the struggles that the organisers of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics face at this point in time, and I think we've spoken an awful lot about how incredibly hard it is for everyone in the world, and how challenging it is for the athletes. But the organisers are not having an easy time at the moment, by way of a word of encouragement, can you just speak a little bit about what you think the real legacy of the postponed 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games might be? for Japan?
I think it gives Tokyo and Japan the opportunity to put on not just a sensational, but a unique Paralympics 2020 in 2021. And for everybody currently working on the games, I know the stresses, the strains, the exhaustion, the pressures that will be on each and every one of you, but hold this truth. In your hearts, you are working on something which will make a difference, not just in the summer of 2021. Not just for the people of Tokyo, and the people of Japan. But something that will make a difference. to plan it. For decades, post Tokyo 2021. Take the spirit of the Paralympics into your heads into your hearts into the very being of you and know that every time next summer, someone from any nation of the world stands on that gold medal rostrum and the anthem of Japan, of Great Britain, of Canada, and on any other nation around the world. No this, each and every one of you that worked on Tokyo 2020 will have enabled that gold medal, that silver medal, that bronze medal, that world record that personal best, every single person working on the games will have laid the stage for those athletes to do the performances of their lives, which they could not do without everybody currently work in such difficult times. on Tokyo 2020 take the strength for that take the parent experience feel the torch to the flame that was lit in 1948 in Stoke Mandeville in a small town in the South East of England. Take that flame and feel it burning inside of you right up to the opening ceremony and through games time. And you can then feel the pride for the rest of your lives for being part of the Paralympic Games.
These laws are quite eloquent and they know
what can I say? We we had high expectations for this particular interview Chris, and as per usual, you have exceeded them all. It's a real privilege to call you a friend and a teammate. And together with Mike, we're all part of the same family here. And thank you so much for giving up so much of your time. It's been such an eloquent, passionate advocate not only for sport, but for Japan and and for humanity. in general. Thank you for what you've done the the Paralympic movement and just keep doing what you're doing. You know, you've got so much to give sport and community and the world in general and we'll be applauding you all the way.
They think. Thank you known. Thank you, my kids. It's I who should thank you for having the opportunity and the privilege. gathered this space to talk about all of this stuff. It's, we all have the great good fortune to be part of it. It's been and continues to be great to have had your friendship for 33 years. And it's me to you guys and to everybody involved with Tokyo 2020. I very much look forward to being there next summer. To get to you too, and to everyone listening is for me a sincere and heartfelt alligator.
Thank you for listening to dependable stories. We'd like to thank Chris one last time for being a great guest and for explaining so beautifully what the Paralympics is able to do for society. If you enjoyed this episode, I highly recommend listening to our episode with Kaz Walton who competed at the original 1964 Tokyo Paralympic Games. listening to her journey from being carried down the stairs due to lack of equipment in Tokyo to being pestered for autographs in London in 2012 is an incredible story. As always, we'd like to thank you for your continued support of Japan sports stories. We love hearing what you have to say about our episodes, so why not get in touch with us on Twitter at Jay s stories? If you like this episode, subscribe to us and leave us a little review telling us how much you liked it on your podcast provider. Next time on demand sports stories. We talked to Japanese swimmer Kitt Miller, about his life as a blind athlete. His hopes for take your 2020 and why he felt he had to leave Japan to chase his so far elusive Paralympic gold