On measures against COVID-19 during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
(Comments by MAEDA Terunobu, President)
Because the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games will take place during the coronavirus pandemic, NHK will continue to carefully report the latest information on the coronavirus, as well as news on disasters and other important events, during the period of the Games. For broadcasts and reporting from the Olympic venues, we will take all possible measures to prevent infection by following the rules of the IOC and Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee. During the Olympics, we will call for action to stop the spread of infections and also implement proper measures ourselves.
On broadcasting and other services for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games
NHK hopes to contribute to the realization of an ‘inclusive society’ that respects diversity through our close involvement with para sports. We broadcast the Tokyo 1964 Paralympic Games, and have covered every Paralympics since the Nagano 1998 Paralympic Winter Games in Japan. As with the Olympics, the Paralympics will be taking place during the pandemic, and we will be aiming to show how the para athletes are trying to overcome a range of challenges. We will broadcast events and related programs on six of our channels: General TV, Educational TV, BS1, BS4K, BS8K and Radio 1. We have said in our current corporate plan that we would enhance universal services, so we will be providing broadcasts and digital services that can be enjoyed by people with and without disabilities during these Games.
(Comments by the project manager)
We plan to broadcast the Paralympics on General TV in much the same way as the Olympics. In the mornings, “Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Asa-Navi (Morning Navigation)” will introduce the major Paralympic events of the day. As I will explain later, this will be a program that uses various innovations so that it can be enjoyed by people with and without disabilities. Carrying on from “Asa-Navi”, a range of Paralympic events will be covered live until around 10 p.m., with news and other programs delivered in between. After the events are finished, a daily highlights show will round up the day’s competition results, along with interviews of medal winners. The show will also present stories of the para athletes and their journey to the Games, utilizing the extensive reporting carried out beforehand. And Educational TV will also broadcast live from the Games, some of it during the day, but mainly in the evening. Now I will talk about the main events to be broadcast on each channel.
The day after the opening ceremony on August 24th, the terrestrial channels General TV and Educational TV will broadcast the first games of Japan’s goalball and wheelchair rugby teams, which are medal hopefuls. For athletics and swimming, which begin on the 26th, the Japanese team hasn’t been fully decided yet, but there are many competitors who are expected to win medals among those likely to be selected. In athletics, SATO Tomoki and ITO Tomoya will be competing in the men’s 400 meters on the 27th. Both are aiming for gold. And on the 28th, two outstanding athletes, NAKANISHI Maya (women’s) and YAMAMOTO Atsushi (men’s) will compete in the long jump. And in swimming, KIMURA Keiichi will aim to fulfil his dream of winning gold in the men's 200m individual medley on the 30th. On September 1st, long jumper Markus Rehm, who uses a prosthetic leg and attracts attention from around the world, will be competing. On September 5th, the final day of the Games, there are hopes of a gold medal for MICHISHITA Misato, the world record-holder in the women’s marathon for athletes with visual impairments. In addition, we will broadcast live coverage of events in which there is a great deal of interest, including wheelchair tennis, boccia, and football 5-a-side.
BS1 is scheduled to broadcast from around 9a.m. to around midnight, covering the performances and competitions of Japan’s and the world’s top para athletes.
As it is for the Olympics, these will be the first Paralympic Games since the BS4K and BS8K channels began full broadcasts. Events will be broadcast simultaneously in 4K and 8K. Scheduled for broadcast are the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as four events: athletics, swimming, wheelchair rugby, and badminton.
Radio 1 will be broadcasting the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as six other events, including wheelchair rugby, swimming, and athletics. As for the specific broadcasting plan, we are working on a tentative version first, which we hope to announce next week.
Continuing on, I will talk about programs related to the Games. Here are some of the main programs on para sports and para athletes that will be broadcast before the Paralympics.
From 10p.m. on August 20th, we will show an “Ani x Para Special”. With the help of famous manga artists such as CHIBA Tetsuya and TAKAHASHI Yoichi, as well as actors, voice actors, and artists, “Ani x Para – Anata no Hero wa Dare desu ka” has so far produced 5-minute short animations about 12 events. For this special episode, many of those involved with “Ani x Para” will appear and talk about the appeals of para sports. And the artists will sing the theme song and send their support to the para athletes.
From 10p.m on August 23rd, the day before the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games, the program "Gyakuten Jinsei" will feature the Japanese national wheelchair rugby team, which is expected to win a medal. Long-time team captain IKE Yukinobu and the first woman selected for the national team, KURAHASHI Kae, will appear as guests. They will talk about the untold story of how the national team overcame a period of stagnation and their enthusiasm for the Tokyo Games.
And as with the Olympic Games, the Paralympic Torch Relay will be live streamed on a dedicated website, and a five-minute “Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Torch Relay Daily Highlight” video will be uploaded every day. The Paralympic Torch Relay is unique in that three runners will run together. The relay will run for eight days from August 17th to 24th in the four prefectures of Shizuoka, Chiba, Saitama, and Tokyo. In order to prevent the spread of coronavirus infections, we ask that you support all the runners by watching the NHK broadcasts and internet streams.
Next, I will talk about the three reporters of the Paralympic Games. GOTO Yuki, CHIBA Erina, and MIKAMI Daishin began working as reporters in 2017 and have been extensively covering para athletes not only in Japan but also overseas. During the Games, they will provide live reports every day on the “Asa-Navi” program from the venues and other locations. They will also be in the studios at the swimming and athletics venues every day. The three reporters will deliver their unique take on the characteristics of the athletes’ disabilities, the journeys they have taken in their lives, how they handled the challenges of the pandemic, and the athletes’ thoughts on the Tokyo Paralympics.
Continuing on, I will talk about universal services. For previous Paralympics, NHK has broadcast using sign language and subtitles that can be enjoyed together by both people with and without disabilities, from children to the elderly. In the past, the programs were recorded, but this year, the program "Asa-Navi" will be broadcast live. It will be a major challenge to provide information in a stress-free and easy-to-understand manner to people with and without disabilities given the speed required for live broadcasts. We have developed a way that allows subtitles, which until now were delayed from broadcast content, to be displayed in sync with live broadcasts. We will delay the video for 30 seconds and create subtitles during that time, so that the subtitles appear at the same time as they are spoken on the screen. Using this method, we will create a live program that is easy to understand for everyone.
In terms of digital services, the NHK Plus app and the dedicated “NHK Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Site” will deliver almost the same services as for the Olympics. NHK Plus will simultaneously stream the live broadcasts of events from General TV and Educational TV. As with for the Olympics, those who do not currently have a registered ID will be able to access the service through their computers or smartphone apps during the Games without being asked to provide information to verify the viewers’ Broadcast Receiving Contract with NHK. And as with regular programs, the “time-shift playback” and “catch-up streaming” services will be available. The dedicated site will deliver live streaming of 19 events, including some that are not broadcast on television, as well as highlights of the athletes’ performances. In addition, there will also be blogs written by the three reporters I mentioned earlier, detailing the thoughts of the para athletes who they have spent many years covering. Two universal services that will be used for the Olympics, the CG animated sign language and the “Robot Commentator” service, will also be available. This will be the first time that these two services will be provided at the Paralympics. CG animated sign language will be available for around one game a day for wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby, and the “Robot Commentator” service will be available for seven events, including wheelchair tennis and sitting volleyball. In addition, in order to deliver information such as event results and broadcast schedules in a simple conversation format, we will provide a Chatbot service using AI on the Paralympic website. This service is already available. Although we are in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, NHK will continue to present the thoughts and performances of the para athletes through these various broadcasts and services.