AECOM's Bill Hanway: Paralympic athletes must be consulted by architects of Tokyo Games

by Kim Megson | 13 Sep 2016
It’s not simply a numbers game when it comes to accessibility. Meeting seating requirements and providing ramps are just two aspects of creating an inclusive facility.
– Bill Hanway

The architect behind the Rio 2016 Olympic Park masterplan has encouraged the organisers of the 2020 Tokyo Games to collaborate with Paralympians as soon as possible to make sure its venues are accessible for all athletes, spectators and the members of the media.

In an exclusive interview with CLAD, Bill Hanway, executive vice president at AECOM, said that “the most important lesson to be learnt” from the Rio Games is the need for architects and planners to collaborate with Paralympic athletes early in the design and planning process.

“The insight provided is invaluable and also much easier to incorporate into designs rather than waiting until later to adapt a facility,” he said. “It’s not simply a numbers game when it comes to accessibility. Meeting seating requirements and providing ramps are just two aspects of creating an inclusive facility.

“True accessibility also includes awareness of the operational requirements needed to make facilities more efficient for athletes and spectators, as well as the appropriate location and distribution of seats. Small details such as providing media stations and tribunes for the increased number of journalists who are in wheelchairs covering the Paralympic Games are also important.”

Hanway explained that the ability for venues to accommodate both the Olympics and Paralympics with minimal adaptation was a key priority of AECOM’s brief for Rio’s Barra Olympic Park – which features the venues for fencing, cycling, swimming and wheelchair basketball, rugby and tennis.

AECOM have designed the park’s central pedestrian area, the Common Domain, to be fully accessible with 1:40 slopes across the entire site. All permanent facilities have ramped access to their main concourses. The local public transport system has also been overhauled to make the facilities easier to reach and to boost the accessibility of the city at large.

The 19-day break between the close of the Olympics and the opening of the Paralympics allowed for a small number of carefully planned modifications. The field of play has been changed at some venues, new branding has been added and improved access for wheelchair users and athletes created.

“A further consideration was to enable Paralympic athletes to attend additional events as spectators so that they could share the experience with their teammates,” said Hanway. “In a number of cases, we created areas at the field of play level to accommodate more spectating athletes.”

Hanway has previously told CLAD how AECOM’s focus on sustainable design and temporary venues has created a lasting legacy for the Brazilian city.

Rio Paralympic Games  Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games  AECOM  Bill Hanway  architecture  design  disability sports  accessibility 
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The architect behind the Rio 2016 Olympic Park masterplan has encouraged the organisers of the 2020 Tokyo Games to collaborate with Paralympians as soon as possible to make sure its venues are accessible for all athletes, spectators and the members of the media. In an exclusive interview with CLAD, Bill Hanway, executive vice president at AECOM, said that “the most important lesson to be learnt” from the Rio Games is
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Wheelchair basketball is one of many Paralympic events currently being held in AECOM's Barra Olympic Park / Silvia Izquierdo/AP/Press Association Images
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