The Paralympic flame already radiates its light and heat in Tokyo, after the opening ceremony at the National Stadium 16 days after the closing of the Olympic Games

The Paralympic flame already radiates its light and heat since this Tuesday in Tokyo, after the opening ceremony at the National Stadium, 16 days after the closing of the Olympic Games, and a year after the date originally scheduled.

” I declare the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games open,” the emperor of Japan, Naruhito, pronounced behind his white mask, from the stadium authorities box, deprived of spectators due to the generalized closed-door decreed to face the fifth wave of covid-19 hitting Japan.

Only a few authorities and the media were able to attend the show and the parade of the delegations that are the starting point of 13 days of an unusual media exposure in Paralympic sports, since an audience of four billion viewers is expected throughout the event, according to the International Paralympic Committee (ICC).

Until September 5, 4,400 Paralympic athletes will aspire to the 539 gold medals in the running.

-‘The greatest force for change’-

I can’t believe that we are finally here, the president of the CPI, Andrew Parsons, congratulated himself on Tuesday.

Many doubted that this day would come, many thought it was impossible, but thanks to the efforts of many, the sporting event endowed with the greatest force for change on the planet is about to begin.

Japan presents the largest delegation, with 254 athletes, ahead of China, dominating the medal table in all editions since 2004.

The Japanese archipelago registers a record of 25,000 daily cases in recent days and Tokyo faces its eighth week of a state of emergency.

Some events in the venue reminded them: the absence of athletes from New Zealand or the reduction of the Brazilian presence to four people out of the 234 Paralympic athletes present in Tokyo.

At the last minute, the Paralympic flag entered the venue, carried by essential workers during the pandemic.

It is clear that we would prefer an audience, but we remain focused on our goal. This time we spent five years training to reach the holy grail, summed up for AFP the judoka and French flag bearer Sandrine Martinet.

– A color ode to diversity –

The ceremony, with the announced theme ‘We have wings’, recreated an airport in the National Stadium for the needs of the storyline: a single-wing plane, played by a 13-year-old teenager in a wheelchair, who ends up flying.   

The refugee committee opened the parade, led by Afghan refugee swimmer Abbas Karimi and Syrian pitcher Alia Issa, the first woman to join the delegation.

As for the Afghan flag, it paraded despite the absence of its two representative athletes, who have not been able to reach Tokyo due to the Taliban takeover. His passage was applauded even by a part of the journalists and authorities.

That was one of the highlights of the ceremony. Another Parsons speech:

Paralympians, you have given everything to be here, blood, sweat and tears, he addressed the athletes seated in front of him.

Now is the time to show your talents, your strength and your determination.

Before the flame was lit, the final ‘show’, animated by Tomoyasu Hotei’s guitar chords, became a colorful ode to diversity with an explosion of fluorescent lights.

You could also see the local practice called Dekotora, consisting of dressing trucks with neon lights. It was the former Paralympic swimmer Manami Ito who, playing the violin with a bow supported by a prosthesis, ushered in a parade of wheelchairs.  

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