Andrew Parsons, President of the International Paralympic Committee, has revealed that a potentially critical lack of accessible hotel rooms at the Tokyo 2020 Games may be mitigated by modifying existing ordinary rooms.
With 500 days to go until the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics get underway, Parsons told insidethegames: "Preparations are going really well – but in terms of challenging prospects we still have an issue with the number of hotel rooms that will be available for wheelchair users or those with mobility difficulties.
"It will not affect the athletes, as they will be catered for in the Village.
"The challenges will affect others such as media representatives, our sponsors and partners – many of whom are in wheelchairs and others who will be in Tokyo as spectators.
"But we see challenges as opportunities, and so we are working with the organising committee, the city authorities and the Japanese Government on putting changes into effect by 2020, and after 2020.
"In the meantime we are working with the Tokyo Organising Committee at least to find a solution for people who will be coming during the Games.
"We are focusing on finding a solution even though we don’t have enough accessible rooms – we are looking at ways of adapting ordinary rooms.
"It’s far from ideal, but it would involve things like taking doors out and changing the configurations of bathrooms.
"This is a solution that could make a positive impact.
"The Organising Committee knows the number of rooms available and working with them we are checking with different hotels about what changes could be made.
"We are still in the very early stages of investigating.
"We cannot rebuild the hotels that are already there - we have to work with what we have already got.
"But hopefully this kind of change can be a legacy for the general public in Tokyo in future years."
Parsons pointed out that the Japanese law is due to come into place by September this year, whereby new hotels of 50 rooms or more will be required to provide one room that is fully accessible to wheelchair users, will nevertheless only require one room to be provided even if a hotel has 500 rooms.
"Maybe this is reflecting a view that people with disability don’t travel, and are not tourists," he said.
"What remains our biggest challenge in terms of Tokyo 2020 is to change the perceptions within Japanese society regarding people with disability, to show that they can be active people in society."
Issues over the lack of accessible hotel rooms were raised in October last year after IPC officials had visited Tokyo to gauge progress in preparations.
"The IPC remains concerned there will be an insufficient number of accessible rooms ready for the games - and I emphasise ready for the games," Xavier Gonzalez, the IPC’s chief executive, said at the time.
IPC officials claim they need 400 to 500 hotel rooms that are "accessible" to wheelchair users – in a city where space is traditionally tight in terms of building design.
Commenting on the other issue that has been flagged up by the IPC ahead of the Tokyo Paralympics - namely the budget - Parsons said: "We have been seeking clarification over the Tokyo 2020 budget, and in particular the budget for the Paralympics.
"We are together with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in the effort to make the Games more rational from an expenditure point of view.
"We expect to get more clarification over the budgetary levels from the IOC Coordination Commission when it reports from May 21-23."
In December 2017, Tokyo 2020 unveiled a budget of ¥1.35 trillion (£9 billion/$12 billion/€10.5 billion), which organisers claimed represented a "significant reduction" in costs compared with previous figures for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Tokyo 2020 cut its budget by $1.4 billion (£1.2 billion/€1.2 billion) following pressure from the IOC to reduce costs.
Tokyo 2020 has vowed to seek "further cost reductions, particularly in the areas of event operations, transport, accommodation and security".