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Tokyo Paralympics 2020 – Flames, planes and automobiles – Games start with colourful display at opening ceremony


The Tokyo 2020 Paralympics got off to a flying start with a stunning opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium.

Despite the absence of spectators, a vibrant display of fireworks, dance, and music flanked a jubilant athlete’s parade.

The ceremony opened with a poignant remembrance of those lost during the Covid-19 pandemic as the Japanese flag was carried into the stadium before being raised.

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The solemn mood was lifted by a lively dance routine with giant balloons arranged to display the Paralympic logo, a colourful performance that would set the tone for the ceremony.

Led by the Refugee Team, the parade featured countless wholesome displays as competitors entered the arena.

Guide dogs, choreographed dance entrances, stylish masks and outfits; there was something for everyone as nations entered by order of the Japanese alphabet, Iceland following out the Refugees.

The Afghanistan flag was paraded by a Games volunteer despite the absence of their athletes, with flights from the capital city of Kabul cancelled in light of the Taliban takeover.

President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Andrew Parsons said earlier this week: “We will include the Afghanistan flag in the Ceremony in a sign of solidarity. It is important to highlight that as it is a message of solidarity and peace that we send to the world.

“We would like to have them here, unfortunately it is not possible, but they will be here in spirit.”

Team GB were led out by a pair of four-time Paralympians in swimmer Ellie Simmonds and archer John Stubbs.

Simmonds will be looking to add to her five gold medal haul, whilst 56-year-old Stubbs will seek to match his triumph at Beijing 2008 as the oldest Team GB athlete to compete in Tokyo.

Bhutan, Guyana and Paraguay all made their Paralympic debuts at the ceremony, with cyclist Walter Grant Stuart the sole competitor for South America’s Guyana.

New Zealand were not present due to concerns over Covid-19 but rivals Australia were one of several nations to bring a huge contingent to the stadium, their numbers peaking 170.

Seeking to top the medals table for an incredible fifth consecutive time, China similarly brought a large delegation, before hosts Japan closed out the parade with an enormous group that wound their way around the arena.

A spectacular rainbow light show rounded out the athletes’ entrance, before a continuation of the ‘one winged plane’ performative dance show that interspersed the entire ceremony.

Japan’s Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto welcomed athletes to the Games before Parsons gave an emotive speech regarding campaigns to tackle disability discrimination.

“The Paralympic Games are a platform for change,” Parsons said.

“Difference is a strength, it is not a weakness. You gave your all to be here. This is now your moment to show your skill to the world. You are the best of humanity. You are amazing.”

The IPC President’s speech was followed by the official opening of the Games, declared by Japanese Emperor Naruhito, before the recital of the Paralympic oath.

A brilliantly bizarre display of futuristic sci-fi outfits and dance came next, including a neon lighted truck and a performance of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill theme by Japanese guitarist and original composer Tomoyasu Hotei.

The story of the one-winged plane concluded with the actor taking symbolic flight, crowning a superb performance in her first ever live show, before three torches brought in the Paralympic flame.

The cauldron was duly lit and a final volley of technicolour fireworks roared across the Tokyo skyline, marking a fittingly beautiful end to an excellent opening ceremony.

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