Swiss Fair on the occasion of the Oita Wheelchair Marathon 2020
The Oita International Wheelchair Marathon was first held in 1981 in commemoration of the International Year of the Disabled, and constituted the world’s first international marathon event only for wheelchair users. The race is now officially recognized by the International Paralympic Committee, gathering athletes from all over the world. Swiss athletes have been visiting the marathon for many years, leaving remarkable successes. Heinz Frei set a world record at the marathon in Oita on 31 October 1999, which still holds to this day.
With the spread of the coronavirus around the world, the 2020 edition of the Oita Wheelchair Marathon has been conducted in a different format, which only included domestic athletes and fewer participants.The championship was staged on November 15 in the presence of Mr. Katsusada Hirose, Governor of Oita Prefecture, Mr. Kiichiro Sato, Mayor of Oita City and other distinguished guests. Blessed with wonderful weather, Mr. Markus Reubi, Minister - Deputy Head of the Embassy of Switzerland in Japan attended the event to cheer on the Japanese athletes as well as to thank the organizers.
On November 14, following the success from previous years, a Swiss Fair was held with the aim of strengthening the friendly relations between Oita City and Switzerland. This year, the event started out with the speeches by Mayor Sato, Mr. Seishiro Eto, Chairman of the Japan-Switzerland Parliamentary Friendship League and Mr. Reubi, who highlighted the great relations between Oita and Switzerland based on the historic successes of Swiss athletes at the wheelchair marathon, the pre-training camp for Tokyo 2020 by the Swiss wheelchair athletes as well as grassroots exchanges.Following the speeches, the local visitors could enjoy a talk session with wheelchair athletes including Mr. Jun Hiromichi, who discussed the secrets behind the strength of the Swiss athletes; a video message by Swiss athlete Marcel Hug; a barrier free fashion show with Swiss motifs, where Mayor Sato wore a special Swiss outfit on stage; an introduction to CYBATHLON, the Zurich-based championship for people with disabilities competing with assistive devices as well as a general presentation on Switzerland by Mr. Jonas Pulver, Head of Culture and Communications at the Embassy of Switzerland.
The Embassy of Switzerland in Japan will continue to communicate and work closely with Oita City, one of its Host Towns on the road to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2021. This includes activities surrounding the Games and also cooperation based on the framework of the “Inclusive Host Town” Initiative.