Tokyo Paralympics: 2020 Games begin with a powerful opening ceremony

Eli Symonds and John Stubbs led a 17-person delegation from the British Paralympic Games
place: Tokyo, Japan dates: August 24 – September 5 Time in Tokyo: GMT +8
coverage: Follow Radio 5 Live and the BBC Sport website

“Paralympic athletes know that no matter which way the wind blows, its power can be harnessed to move forward. They know that by being brave and spreading their wings, they can reach extraordinary heights.”

Words from the organizers of Tokyo 2020, as the Paralympic Games finally opened, 364 days later than planned and after a year of extreme difficulties.

It’s been five years since the competitors said “Chao” to Ryu. Finally, it was the turn of the Paralympic Games to present “Kunichi wa” to Tokyo.

The Games kicked off with a colorful and festive opening ceremony with a touch of sadness, a “We Have Wings” concept that organizers said was meant to raise awareness of the bravery of Paralympians.

“I can’t believe we’re finally here,” Andrew Parsons, president of the International Paralympic Committee, said in his opening remarks.

“Many doubted that this day would happen. Many thought it impossible. But thanks to the efforts of so many, the most transformative sporting event on earth is about to begin.”

These games will look different from those that existed in previous times. But as the Olympics just a few weeks ago showed, the power of sport will prevail.

It has the power to create “winds of change” as well.

Most of us haven’t been to an airport in nearly 18 months, but Tuesday’s opening ceremony – at Tokyo National Stadium – transported us to Bara Airport.

There we met the small single-wing aircraft, convinced that it could not fly because it had only one wing. Gradually, a change occurs in her heart, inspired by the displays of resilience around her, and she grows confident enough to set out on her own journey.

Yui Wago is like a small single wing plane
Yui Wago is like a small single wing plane

There were no crowds to watch the opening ceremony, as there are throughout the games, but it was a show, a colorful cauldron and a celebration.

There were somber moments, too, that reflected the events of the past seventeen months. A rescue worker was among those who carried the Japanese flag to the stadium, while the Paralympics flag was handed over to eight key workers who have supported the people of Japan in their daily lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of the 714 members represented at the opening ceremony, 166 have a weakness. In Japan, it is hoped that the Games will act as a catalyst for changing societal attitudes towards disability in the country.

The parade saw swimmer Ellie Symonds and bowler John Stubbs carry the Great Britain flag, leading a 17-person British delegation to the stadium.

Eight-time Paralympic medalist Symonds later called himExternal link “One of the proudest moments” of her life.

A volunteer at the Games carried the flag of Afghanistan as an act of solidarity after two Paralympic athletes in Afghanistan were forced to withdraw from the Games due to the situation in the country since the collapse of the government and the return of the Taliban.

A volunteer holds the flag of Afghanistan at the National Stadium in Tokyo
A volunteer holds the flag of Afghanistan at the National Stadium in Tokyo

The Paralympic cauldron was placed lower than its Olympic counterpart so that competitors could “feel a familiarity” with it, opened like a flower to “personify vitality and hope,” and was lit by three Japanese righteous athletes.

In all, about 4,400 athletes from 162 Paralympic Committees will compete in 539 medal events across 22 sports in Tokyo, the first city to host the Summer Paralympic Games twice, having done so for the first time in 1964.

“People, you’ve done everything you can to be here,” Parsons said. “Blood, sweat, and tears. Now is the time to show the world your skills, your strength, your determination.”

“If the world ever categorized you, now is the time to rename you: hero, hero, friend, colleague, role model, or just a human being. You are the best of humanity and the only one who can decide who you are and what.”

“You are the truth. You are wonderful. You choose to be the best at whatever plan.

“Your performance can change the fortunes of your life. But most importantly, it will change the lives of 1.2 billion forever. This is the power of sport, to change lives and societies. Change begins with sport. From tomorrow on, Paralympic athletes begin again to change the world.”

Great Britain won 147 medals, including 64 gold, in Rio. It’s time to find out what Tokyo has.

Fireworks light up the sky over Tokyo National Stadium, with the Agitos - Paralympic emblem - displayed below
Fireworks light up the sky over Tokyo National Stadium, with the Agitos – Paralympic emblem – displayed below

Reading logo image about BBC - bluefooter - blue

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.