Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike said Thursday she will use the 2020 Paralympics to improve the city’s facilities for its ageing population — after attempting to negotiate the teeming capital in a wheelchair.

Koike said it was her priority to make Tokyo navigable by both Paralympians and the city’s greying public. With falling birth rates and increasing longevity, Japan has one of the world’s fastest rates of ageing.

“I want to focus on the Paralympics as the foundation for the success of the overall event,” Koike told a press conference as she marked a year in office.

Koike said she has gone around Tokyo in a wheelchair to experience first-hand the problems of bumpy pavements and street curbs. Tokyo will host both the Summer Olympics and Paralympics in 2020.

“When you think about the future of Japan and Tokyo, it is clear that more and more people who will be requiring the use of wheelchairs and walking sticks,” she said.

“Therefore, our work to prepare for the Paralympics is meant also to prepare for the ageing of the population in Tokyo.”

“In that regard, Tokyo wishes to use the opportunity to prepare for the Paralympics to build a city that is kind to people with disabilities and special needs,” she added.

The issue will also affect Paris, the presumed host of the 2024 Olympics, with its historic buildings and infrastructure, Koike said.

“Paris is a city that has already been developed and has existed for centuries. So that might make it difficult for the city to add new elements,” she said.

“Urban population ageing is a shared issue that developed countries must seriously think about,” she said.

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