After 12 days of competition, the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games came to an end tonight with the Closing Ceremony. As was the case with the Opening Ceremony, Japan National Stadium provided the backdrop to a thrilling show that gave celebration to the finish of a successful Games as the focus is now on Paris 2024.
The opening montage
The Tokyo 2020 Opening Ceremony opened with a video which featured a young boy watching highlights of the Paralympic Games.
Across the course of the video, other people could be seen looking up to and watching Paralympic athletes compete before the boy was standing atop a rooftop overlooking the Tokyo skyline, playing with a DJ-like sound desk and creating techno-inspired beats.
More artists joined him, each playing different instruments that included a guitar, keyboard, drums, violins and one who was beatboxing as overlay footage depicted athletes with impairments competing in sports across Tokyo’s venues.
Heading live to Tokyo, the same boy was now inside the stadium, again creating music with other musicians with dancers surrounding him to videogame-like sounds, the soundwaves illuminating the surface of the stadium.
The music, “representing the boundless energy of the athletes that’s been seen across the last fortnight, expressing the vitality of Tokyo”, performers emerged to create a colourful spectacle of dancers, roller-skaters and cyclists.
The performance continued with the infamous crosswalk in Tokyo, Shibuya scramble crossing projected upon the ground, before a homage to videogames with sounds, scores and progress bars each contributing to the ‘Paralympic Effect’.
Using LED lights, “the Paralympic Effect was highlighted by travelling all across the virtual realm, spreading throughout Tokyo to all corners of the world, a symbolic representation of the positive effect of the Paralympic Games”.
At the end of the performance, as the performers backed away to form a unified line, the LED screens lit up and read ‘Thank you to all the Paralympians’, signifying respect for those who have competed.
The Parade of Nations
After His Imperial Highness Crown Prince Akishino and International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons appeared in the official stand, Japan’s flag was brought into the stadium. It was carried by wheelchair racer Tomoki Sato, Olympic fencing champion Kazuyasu Minobe, swimmer Miyuki Yamada, nurse Kaiko Yamamoto, wheelchair racer Motoki Iwakiri and swimmer Sakura Koike.
The national flag of the host nation was hoisted on the flagpole beside the Paralympic flag as the Kodomo no Shiro Chorus (the National Children’s Castle Chorus) sung the Japanese national anthem.
The parade of nations then began with the Refugee Paralympic Team the first to enter as Afghanistan’s Hossain Rasouli and Zakia Khudadadi each entered carrying their flag after being absent from the Opening Ceremony.
Ellie Cole represented Australia as its flagbearer, the four-time Paralympic swimmer holding the flag aloft. Announcing this year to be her final Paralympic Games, across the journey Cole has won six gold medals and had 17 podium finishes overall.
A city built to shine
As the 163 nations/NOC’s paraded into the stadium, when they got to the middle of the arena their flag was taken by a volunteer as they were instructed and ushered towards a skytree. The skytree, placed in the middle of the stadium as was other floats of skyscrapers and gardenscapes, a city was starting to be built.
The Closing Ceremony flagbearers each had a role to play in the creation of this city too as they were given a mirror and asked to stick it on the laid-down skytree. The purpose was to “illustrate a world where everyone and everything shines, where differences don’t create conflict but allow each and everyone one of us to shine in our own way”.
Dubbed the ‘City Where Differences Shine’, the actions of the athletes, supported by the volunteers every step of the way, the mirrored skytree shone brightly as artwork by artists with impairments were projected onto the field, helping enforce that notion more so.
In a stunning sequence that showed the strength in unity, once Japan’s – as the final flagbearer – mirror was stuck onto the skytree, the floats moved in together as the performers helped bring the skytree upright. Taking the form of an imaginary rope pull that after two failed attempts, needed more people joining in and thus, through a united front, was successful in being raised.
I’mPOSSIBLE Awards and recognition of the new
Voice actor Maxwell Power and Paralympic gold medallist Miki Matheson of the Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center were the MC’s for the evening as the I’mPOSSIBLE Awards began. The Award, established by the International Paralympic Committee in conjunction with the Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center, honours schools and Paralympians who have contributed to a more inclusive world through the Paralympic movement.
The Best Host Country School went to Kisarau Municipal Kiyomidai Elementary School in Chiba, the Best Overseas School went to Lilongwe LEA School in Malawi and the Excellence Host Country School went to Chiba Prefectural Togane Special Needs Education School.
Each recipient won due to a dedicated focus on the I’mPOSSIBLE movement in theory and in practice through working together, social interactions and social programmes benefiting and bridging the gap between disabled and non-disabled persons.
Former Paralympians Lassam Katongo of Zambia and Katarzyn Rogowiec of Poland were each recognised by the IPC for their contributions to the Paralympic movement and duly awarded respective honours also.
Six newly-elected members of the IPC Athletes Council were also announced. Joining the team is Martina Caironi of Italy, Daniel Dias of Brazil, Omara Durand Elias of Cuba, Takayuki Suzuki of Japan, Jitske Visser of the Netherlands and Zahra Nemati of Iran.
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The creativity returned to the middle of the stadium where the city still stood as water droplets were projected on the surface, signifying the phrase ‘life is born’ as a diverse city came alive.
Performers, dressed in themes of nature – trees, flowers and butterflies – took centre stage as a story was being told about the world that depicted nature and an urban landscape.
Colours filled the stadium as the city roared to life, musicians appearing once again to provide a soundtrack to the spectacle, who defied conventions as every participant played in a way that suited them – a highlight being wheelchair-bound musicians who had drum-like instruments fitted on the wheels.
As the ensemble picked up and grew in size, an array of people joined in, dressed colourfully and in different expressions, being of all ages and genres. The message represented a “city where they can all express themselves through dance, from the heart, any dance can turn into a celebration when other people join in”.
The next official stage of the Closing Ceremony came when it was time for the handover ceremony. Tokyo’s Governor Yuriko Koike and Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo were joined on stage by IPC President Andrew Parsons.
In continuing the theme of unity, the Paralympic flag which was hoisted down moments earlier was passed from Koike to Parsons, then to Hidalgo, each taking turns at waving the flag too before handing it across.
As part of the handover, France’s national anthem played as Betty Moutoumalaya sing-sung La Marseillaise at the Louvre, using body movement and facial expressions to convey emotions and in turn, show the music in that way that benefited those affected by loss of hearing, as the French flag was raised on the flagpole next to Japan’s.
“Faites du bruit”
In a similar fashion to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Closing Ceremony, a live shot was shown where French revellers were joined at the Trocadéro Gardens at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, several Paralympic champions and Paris 2024 President Tony Estanguet celebrating the handover.
A composition made possible by French artist Pone, who suffers from Charcot’s Disease, communicating through his eyes and as such, created the soundtrack to the celebrations using an eye-tracking software that analysed his eye movements.
A message was spoken throughout the piece, “faites du bruit” meaning “make some noise” and just like that, the crowd in attendance did so as breakdancers and circus artists appeared in a choreographed way.
The final shot was of the Eiffel Tower, flying a Paris 2024 flag but also shown with a blade on one of the bottom points of the structure, identifying their commitment to an inclusive Paralympic Games in three years time.
IPC President Andrew Parsons and Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto each had closing remarks to draw an end to another successful Paralympic Games.
In Seiko’s address, she explained that the journey is coming to an end, but that athletes had to overcome many difficulties to compete in Tokyo, and show up in the first place, such as the environment the Games were hosted in.
In closing, Seiko remarked that the athlete’s conviction, determination and unending hard work contributed to a refusal to give up and to set new limits along the way.
“Your impact as Paralympians has a message to us all. You have inspired many of us to start our own new journeys. Change starts with awareness,” Seiko said.
“We are determined to build a diverse and inclusive future where people recognise and support each other’s differences free from discrimination or barriers of any kind.”
In Parsons’ address, he made mention that the Games were delivered despite the current climate of the world and that it was successful. He thanked the 24, 514 volunteers as well as the athletes, coaches and staff and other stakeholders.
“Tonight, see this not as a Closing Ceremony, but an opening to a bright and inclusive future. We are at a crucial crossroads for our planet – no mask can cover its flaws”, Parsons said.
Parsons also brought up We The 15, a global movement that is inclusive of people with all disabilities to create purpose and opportunity and break down barriers that keep so many apart and identified its help in progressing the support of athletes who may be impaired.
The ceremony began to wrap up with a rendition of Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World, accompanied by footage of the countless moments of success, triumph, tribulation, emotion and unity shown by competitors at the Paralympic Games. Also as a thank you to the volunteers, they too were shown for their ability to keep the Games going and for their hard work and effort in ensuring a safe event that ran smoothly and protected everyone involved.
As the song and the coverage wrapped up, the camera panned to the Olympic flame, still burning but as the shot zoomed in, the petals of the cauldron began shifting before closing in on the flame, encasing and extinguishing it, marking the true end of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
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