Top moments from the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games

(Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

And we have lift off! After a year's delay fireworks soared above Japan’s capital to herald the start of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. These are the highlights of the Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium.

After a year's delay to the start of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, "moving forward" was the overwhelming theme of the Opening Ceremony. As part of the vibrant and, at times, emotional three-hour extravaganza, the Olympic Stadium was turned into a magical “airport” as “passengers” - the athletes and the billions of viewers around the world - were invited to sit back and enjoy the fun and excitement. It was the perfect launchpad to the Games which will last for 12 days until 5 September.

The spectacle took off when a “control tower” gave traditional Japanese Karakuri performers permission to move a series of pumps, springs and levers. As they worked together, they created “winds” in three colours, which transformed into the Three Agitos, the symbol of the Paralympic Games.

Japan's flag enters before 12-year-old SATO Hirai gives a powerful rendition of the national anthem

Tokyo officially began its turn as the first city in history to host the Paralympic Games for a second time at the Opening Ceremony, the first was in 1964. As part of the occasion, Japan's national flag was carried into the stadium by some of the country's finest Para athletes, who included three-time Paralympic champion (ice sledge speed skating), MATHESON Miki, OZAKI Mineho, four-time Paralympic champion (athletics); IMAI Taiyou, badminton champion and captain of the national team; YUGUCHI Erina, a world record-breaking sprinter in 200m T61; wrestler ICHO Kaori, who became the first woman in Olympic history to win four consecutive gold medals in the same individual event in any sport, and ASATANI Takumi a rescue worker for the Tokyo Fire Department.

As members of the Self-Defence Forces raised the Japan’s flag, the national anthem Kimi Ga Yo, was performed by 12-year-old SATO Hirari. The singer-songwriter, who was born with a vision impairment, was praised for her beautiful rendition and powerful voice.

TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 24: The Japanese national flag enters the stadium during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 24, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 24: The Japanese national flag enters the stadium during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 24, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)
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The Parade of Athletes dance to the hip hop sounds of DJ Seiho

Entering in order of the host nations language, some of the 4,403 athletes from 162 National Paralympic Committees, including the Paralympic Refugee Team, were welcomed into the stadium by hundreds of dancers and the sounds of hip-hop and electronica music from DJ Seiho. The large contingent from Venezuela danced and boogied as did Belgium, with the female athletes wearing colourful red dresses. Spain also partied along with the other nations and Para swimmer Dexroy Creese enjoyed his moment in the spotlight as Saint Vincent and the Grenadines first-ever Paralympian. Many of the athletes also wore traditional costumes with some of the Mexican team wearing striking headwear. The large team from France, the next host of the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, came in lines of red, white and blue, to mark the colours of their flag.

The biggest cheer of the night, though, was reserved for Japan, who by tradition, as the host nation, came into the stadium last. The large team received a huge welcome. For the first time in the history of the Olympic and Paralympic Games the names of all the athletes from Japan and each of the delegations were displayed on the ribbon screen around the stadium.

TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 24: Athletes from Team Spain take part in the parade of athletes during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 24, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 24: Athletes from Team Spain take part in the parade of athletes during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 24, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
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TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 24: Members of Team Japan walk in the parade of athletes during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 24, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 24: Members of Team Japan walk in the parade of athletes during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 24, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
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From magical “airport” to a giant truck and rocks stars...

After the parade the athletes watched as their nations flags were waved to create the “winds of change” and the stadium was transformed into a magical “airport”. The spotlight was then focussed on a little one-winged plane, who was too afraid to fly. She then goes on a journey where she meets characters who inspire her to start living life to the fullest and she regains her courage and flies. It was a vibrant extravaganza full of acrobats, mythical creatures and dancers. A giant illuminated truck with a rock band on the back was also in the mix. The idea behind the story being the world will watch incredible performances from the athletes during the Paralympics, which will inspire many people.

TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 24: Japanese musician Tomoyasu Hotei performs during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 24, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 24: Japanese musician Tomoyasu Hotei performs during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 24, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)
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(Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
(Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
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The Opening of the Games

Reflecting on the idea of “moving forward”, Andrew Parsons, president of the International Paralympic Committee made an impassioned plea for a more inclusive world for people with disability. “The Paralympic Games are for sure a platform for change, but only every four years is not enough. It is up to each and every one of us to play our part, every day, to make for a more inclusive society in our countries, in our cities, in our communities,” he said.

HASHIMOTO Seiko, President of the Tokyo Organising Committee also thanked the athletes for their "hard work, dedication and perseverance in the face of the pandemic's many challenges to gather here in Tokyo". Emperor Naruhito of Japan opened the Games and the Paralympic flag was hoisted before athletes, judges and a coach made their oaths.

TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 24: International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons talks during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 24, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 24: International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons talks during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 24, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
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The lighting of the Paralympic Cauldron

After a year’s delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Paralympic flame finally arrived at the stadium. Torchbearers made their way around the arena, before it reached its final destination, the Paralympic cauldron. There were three torchbearers who were given the honour of lighting it: Japan’s world number one women’s wheelchair tennis player, KAMIJI Yui; UCHIDA Shunsuke, a boccia athlete and powerlifting champion MORISAKI Karin. They each held a torch and moved their wheelchairs up the ramp to the cauldron before they ignited the flame, which set off a firework display that lit up the night sky and launched the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

(Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
(Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
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