Sport World unites – at a distance – as colourful ceremony opens Tokyo Paralympics in style

World unites – at a distance – as colourful ceremony opens Tokyo Paralympics in style

Twitter Facebook Reddit Pinterest Email

Australia has started the Paralympics with social isolation, sending only three people to the opening ceremony.

While many other countries had athletes marching behind their flag bearers on Tuesday night, chef de mission Kate McLoughlin was the only Australian team member to join flag bearers and team co-captains Danni di Toro and Ryley Batt in the ceremony.

Tokyo’s National Stadium was again empty for the start of the Paralympics, continuing the pandemic measures that marked the Olympics.

But the colourful opening made it a night to remember for all watching.

Earlier on Tuesday, McLoughlin said the decision for Australian athletes not to march at the opening ceremony was made several weeks ago.

“While it’s a decision I didn’t want to have to make, it’s one we made to keep the athletes safe and to make sure they did get to the start line,” she said.

“It just got down to the fact that we’re here to compete, we’re here to perform for Australia.

“It’s far from ideal. Safety is our No.1 priority for this team.”

McLoughlin said factors such as potentially having to share opening ceremony transport with other countries influenced the decision.

The Australian team had its own small ceremony at the athletes’ village and sent off their flag bearers with a guard of honour.

Tokyo and Paralympic organisers are under pressure from soaring new infections in the capital.

About 40 per cent of the Japanese population is fully vaccinated.

But daily new cases in Tokyo have increased four to five times since the Olympics opened on July 23.

Tokyo is under a state of emergency until September 12, with the Paralympics ending on September 5.

Organisers on Tuesday also announced the first positive test for an athlete living in the Paralympic Village. They gave no name or details and said the athlete had been isolated.

It is understood the athlete is not Australian.

‘We Have Wings’

Japanese Emperor Naruhito got it all started again, this time under the theme “We Have Wings”.

Among the few dignitaries on hand were Douglas Emhoff, husband of US vice-president Kamala Harris, International Paralympic Committee president Andrew Parsons and IOC president Thomas Bach.

It was a circus-like opening with acrobats, clowns, vibrant music and fireworks atop the stadium to mark the start of the long parade of athletes.

The opening ceremony featured the national flags of the 162 delegations represented, which included the refugee team.

The flag of Afghanistan was carried by a volunteer despite the delegation not being on hand in Tokyo.

The Paralympics are being held without fans, although organisers are planning to let some school children attend, going against the advice of much of the medical community.

The Tokyo Games will feature 4403 athletes – a record number for any Paralympics.