After a 12 month delay, the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics were officially opened by Emperor Naruhito on Tuesday night. The Inner Sanctum has recapped the Opening Ceremony and many of the breathtaking moments inside Japan National Stadium and the few outside it.
This was due to the Australian Team’s Covid precautions, but that didn’t mean the additional 177 athletes didn’t don their Team Australia uniforms.
Earlier in the day the Australian Paralympic team assembled in front of Australia HQ in their Opening Ceremony uniforms to pose for a huge group photo with the flag bearers front and centre.
Australia wasn’t the only country to take precautionary measures with the team from New Zealand having no athletes in attendance at the Opening Ceremony instead having a Paralympics volunteer carry the flag into the stadium.
Instead, they too had their own mini Opening Ceremony as a team in the Paralympic Village.
We Have Wings
Anyone that was watching might have noticed a theme for the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympics. It was all about flight.
Japan National Stadium was dubbed as Para Airport for the night with multiple numbers centred around taking flight.
The inspiring concept was explained prior to the commencement of the Opening Ceremony and the vision was well and truly realised throughout it.
First of 4,403
The first athletes to enter Japan National Stadium during the parade of nations weren’t from one nation but were members of the Refugee Paralympic Team.
It was Afghan-born Abbas Karimi, who will compete in the Men’s S5 50m Butterfly that was the first athlete to enter, whilst not every athlete entered the Stadium in the opening ceremony he was the first of the 4,403 that are competing at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
4,403 athletes from 163 NPCs are set to compete at the Paralympics and the new tradition of beginning with the Refugee Paralympic Team shows a commitment to the team at future Paralympics.
Honoured in absence
Following the fall of Kabul, Afghanistan’s Paralympic team was forced to withdraw from the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
Denying taekwondo athlete Zakia Khudadadi, who was set to become Afghanistan’s first female Paralympian in Tokyo, and track athlete Hossain Rasoul the opportunity to compete.
IPC President Andrew Parsons announced that the Afghanistan flag would be incorporated into the parade of nations.
“We will include the Afghanistan flag in the ceremony in a sign of solidarity,” Parsons said to media.
The flag of Afghanistan was carried in by a Paralympics Volunteer as the fifth country to enter Japan National Stadium.
‘A mob behind us’
Despite being the only Australian Athletes to enter Japan National Stadium and there being no crowds, Australian flag bearers Ryley Batt and Daniela di Toro were in excellent spirits.
Wearing microphones Australian’s were able to hear their thoughts about entering the stadium representing their country.
It was Batt’s words that left a mark letting Australian’s know that they knew they were being cheered on from home.
“We know the stands are empty, but we’ve got the whole mob behind us,” Batt said.
Di Toro backed up the sentiment with the equally impactful “All 1,044 of us.” Paying tribute to all Australian Paralympians past and present.
Power in diversity
The story of the Little One-Winged Plane followed the Parade of Nations.
The piece featured a diverse group of performers representing the different planes that were all able to fly trying to help inspire the Little One-Winged Plane, portrayed by Wago Yui. Followed by a colourful collection of performers from the Dazzling Truck who also helped inspire the Little One-Winged Plane.
It was an ongoing story that was told throughout the ceremony even leaving former Australian Paralympian and commentator for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics Kurt Fearnley invested in the piece until the very end.
Throughout the Opening Ceremony, the logo for the organisation WeThe15 was heavily featured on the clothing of performers.
IPC President Andrew Parsons drew further attention to it during his speech prior to the games being declared open. The organisation focuses on ending discrimination and transform the lives of the 1.2 billion persons living with disabilities who make up 15 per cent of the global population.
The campaign launched on August 19 prior to the Paralympics starting and will be a 10-year project dedicated not just to athletes but society as a whole.
Lights the cauldron
Much like the Olympics one of the most anticipated moments of the Paralympics is finding out who will be the last person in the torch relay and light the cauldron.
It wasn’t one athlete lighting the cauldron but three, with the trio of Kamiji Yui, Uchida Shunsuke, and Morisaki Karin each carrying their own torch and lighting the cauldron together.
A move that is very appropriate for a Paralympics with the motto United by Emotion.