The rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games finally kicked off yesterday at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, Japan, with a stunning behind-closed-doors opening ceremony with fireworks lighting up the Tokyo sky.
Like the main Olympics, the long-awaited event took place precisely 364 days later than planned due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the event still retains its title ‘Tokyo 2020 Paralympics’.
The opening ceremony witnessed many acrobats, clowns, vibrant music and fireworks at the stadium to mark the start of the long parade of athletes, featuring the national flags of the 162 delegations represented, which included the refugee team.
The flag of Afghanistan was carried by a volunteer despite the delegation not being on hand in Tokyo due to the uncertainty following the Taliban takeover.
Team Nigeria were the cynosure of all eyes at yesterday’s opening ceremony as they filed out in style in their green-and-white uniform, providing a beautiful setting for the ceremony that had only a handful of people in attendance owing to COVID-19 restrictions.
The minister of youth and sports development, Sunday Dare, expressed confidence that Nigeria’s special athletes will live up to the expectations of Nigerians and make the country proud.
“Based on condition precedent and the resilience of our special athletes especially when on international assignments, I have no doubt in my mind that these athletes will again make Nigeria proud.
“Their ability to excel and win medals is in no doubt. They have been consistent. They have trained long and hard,” Dare said.
Japan’s Emperor Naruhito and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga were among those present for a day organisers and many athletes feared may never happen.
The Paralympics are being held without fans, although organizers are planning to let some school children attend, going against the advice of much of the medical community.
International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons and Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the Tokyo organizing committee, say the Paralympics can be held safely.
Both have tried to distance the Paralympics and Olympics from Tokyo’s rising coronavirus infection rate.
Organizers also announced the first positive test for an athlete living in the Paralympic Village.