Place: Tokyo, Japan Appointment: August 24 September 5 Time in Tokyo: BST +8
Blanket: To be continued on Radio 5 Live and on the BBC Sport website
“Paralympic athletes know that no matter what the wind direction is, its power can be harnessed to move forward. They know that by being brave and spreading their wings, they can reach extraordinary heights.”
The words of the organizers of Tokyo 2020, as the Paralympic Games finally opened, 364 days later than expected and after a year of greatest difficulties.
Five years have passed since the competitors said “tchau” in Rio. Finally, it is the turn of the Paralympic Games to offer “konnichi wa” to Tokyo.
The Games began with an Opening Ceremony full of color and celebration interspersed with a poignant twist, a “We Have Wings” concept that organizers said was meant to raise awareness of Paralympians’ courage.
“I can’t believe we’re finally here,” said Andrew Parsons, President of the International Paralympic Committee, in his opening speech.
“Many doubted that day would happen. Many thought it was impossible. But thanks to the efforts of many, the world’s most transformative sporting event is about to begin.”
These Games will be different from those of previous times. But as the Olympics showed just a few weeks ago, the power of sport will prevail.
It also has the power to create “winds of change”.
Most of us haven’t passed through an airport in almost 18 months, but Tuesday’s opening ceremony – at the Tokyo National Stadium – transported us to Para Airport.
There we met the small one-winged plane, convinced that it cannot fly because it only has one wing. Gradually, she changes her mind, inspired by the displays of resilience that surround her, and gains enough self-confidence to embark on her own journey.
There were no crowds to attend the Opening Ceremony, as will be the case throughout the Games, but it was still a spectacle, a cauldron of color and celebration.
There were also dark moments, mirroring the events of the past 17 months. A rescue worker was among those who carried the Japanese flag around the stadium, while the Paralympic flag was handed over to eight key workers who have supported the Japanese people in their daily lives during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Of the 714 cast members who performed at the opening ceremony, 166 have disabilities. In Japan, it is hoped that the Games will serve as a catalyst for changing societal attitudes towards disability in the country.
The parade of athletes saw swimmer Ellie Simmonds and archer John Stubbs carrying the flag of Great Britain, leading a British delegation of 17 people into the stadium.
Simmonds, eight-time Paralympic medalist later called him “one of the proudest moments” of his life.
The Afghan flag was carried by a Games volunteer, in solidarity after the two Afghan Paralympic athletes were forced to withdraw from the Games due to the situation in the country since the fall of the government and the return of the Taliban.
The Paralympic cauldron, placed lower than its Olympic counterpart so that competitors could “feel an affinity” with it, opened like a flower to “embody vitality and hope”, and was lit by a trio of Japanese para-athletes.
In total, approximately 4,400 athletes from 162 National Paralympic Committees will compete in 539 medal-winning events in 22 sports in Tokyo, the first city to host the Summer Paralympic Games twice, having done so for the first time in 1964.
“Paralympians, you gave your all to be here. Blood, sweat and tears. Now is the time to show the world your skills, your strength, your determination, ”said Parsons.
“If the world has already labeled you, now is the time to be relabeled: champion, hero, friend, colleague, role model or just plain human. You are the best of humanity and the only ones who can decide who and what you are .
“You are the truth. You are amazing. You choose to be the best no matter what the plan.
“Your performances could change the fate of your lives. But most importantly, they will change the lives of 1.2 billion people forever. It is the power of sport, to transform lives and communities. Change begins with sport. . And starting tomorrow, Paralympic athletes are once again starting to change the world. “
Great Britain won 147 medals, including 64 gold, in Rio. It’s time to find out what Tokyo has.