Due to the coronavirus pandemic and a lack of spectators, the event at the National Stadium was more low-key than past Paralympic ceremonies. However, there was still plenty of celebration.
Emperor Naruhito of Japan started the celebrations, this time with the theme “We Have Wings.” Douglas Emhoff, the husband of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons, and International Olympic President Thomas Bach, was among the few in attendance, 9 News reported.
The Tokyo Paralympics kicked off with fireworks, music, acrobats, and clowns in the same empty stadium that hosted the Olympics’ opening and closing ceremonies.
The country flags of the 162 delegations present, including the refugee team, were shown during the opening ceremony.
It includes Afghan refugee and swimmer Abbas Karimi, Iranian refugee Shahrad Nasajpour (discus), Burundian refugee Parfait Hakizimana (taekwondo), and Syrian refugees Anas Al Khalifa (canoeing), Ibrahim Al Hussein (swimming), and Alia Issa (club throw).
Ellie Simmonds, a swimmer, and John Stubbs, an archer, were chosen as Great Britain’s flagbearers and had the honor of leading their teammates into the stadium, which had 227 competitors competing in 19 sports, according to SkyNews.
Although Afghanistan’s athletes could not compete in Tokyo, the Afghan flag was displayed in the parade.
New Zealand decided to skip the ceremony due to concerns about the coronavirus.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge wished the ParalympicsGB athletes good luck ahead of the Games, which run until September 5.
Prince Edward said in a video message: “We want you to go out there and achieve your best, make us proud, and inspire the next generation of athletes with a disability.
“And whatever happens, I hope you have a brilliant experience in Japan.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: “I want to wish our brilliant Paralympians the very best of luck as the Tokyo Paralympic Games kick off today.
“We’re all willing you on. Go for Gold.”
The Games, which begin on Wednesday, will feature 539 events across 22 sports at 21 locations, but spectators will be prohibited due to the country’s worsening coronavirus crisis.
Five years after its success in Rio, when it took home 147 medals, including 64 golds, ParalympicsGB has set a goal of 100 to 140 medals.
Tokyo and Paralympic organizers are under pressure as the number of new infections in the capital increases.
Although about 40% of the Japanese population has been fully vaccinated, new cases in Tokyo have climbed four to five times every day since the Games began on July 23. As a result, the state of emergency in Tokyo will last until Sept. 12, with the Paralympics ending on Sept. 5.
The Paralympics will be held without fans, while organizers hope to allow some school children to attend, against medical advice to the contrary.