After 13 action packed days featuring 22 different sports and 539 events, the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games have officially come to a close. There has been a lot to celebrate over the last few weeks, from the meaningful opening ceremony to Japan’s record-breaking medal wins including Japan’s youngest Paralympic medallist and oldest Paralympic champion. There was also a record number of athletes attending the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, with a whopping 4,405 Paralympians competing in the Games.
Similar to the opening ceremony, the closing ceremony was a subdued affair with no spectators in the stands, apart from a handful of VIPs including Crown Prince Akishino, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and president of the International Paralympic Committee Andrew Parsons. Also included were all the Paralympic athletes still in Tokyo, who were already situated around the stadium floor waiting for the show to commence.
The themes of the Tokyo 2020 closing ceremony were Harmonious Cacophony and Moving Forward, and the event aimed to showcase both people with and without disabilities, letting their differences shine. Here are some of the memorable moments from the ceremony that touched audiences watching around the globe.
The Parade of Nations featured athletes from Afghanistan
The closing ceremony started with a colourful performance by people with a range of disabilities, including a full band and a vision-impaired breakdancer. After the Japanese flag was brought in by a select number of Paralympians, the Parade of Nations began, introducing all the participating teams and their flags.
One of the most unforgettable moments of the procession was the Afghanistan team. At the opening ceremony, the country had no athletes present and was represented by a Tokyo 2020 volunteer as a sign of solidarity. For the closing ceremony, the country was represented by two athletes who managed to make it to Tokyo safely to compete in the Games – despite the Taliban’s recent takeover of Afghanistan. It was a powerful moment, showing just how much this event can mean to the athletes.
The winners of the I’mPossible Awards were introduced
Next, the I’mPossible Awards were presented to outstanding Paralympians and schools supporting the I’mPossible Paralympic education programme. The I'mPossible programme was launched in 2017 with the support of the Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Centre to educate young people around the world about the Paralympic values and movement. So far, it has been introduced in 37 countries, providing lesson plans, worksheets and other teaching resources.
During the ceremony, awards were given out to three schools including the Kiyomidai Elementary School in Chiba, Chiba Prefectural Togane Special Needs Education School, and the Lilongwe LEA School in Malawi. Two Paralympians were also awarded for their support: Lassam Katongo from Zambia and Katarzyna Rogowiec from Poland.
The Paralympic flag was handed over to Paris
Following the awards was a thank you to the Tokyo 2020 volunteers before another psychedelic circus performance of dancers, musicians, and, of course, more colourful fireworks, which shot up around the perimeter of Japan National Stadium.
IOC President Andrew Parsons, Governor Koike and the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, were then brought up on stage for the flag handover ceremony. The 2024 Paralympics in Paris will mark the city’s very first time hosting the Paralympic Games.
To give us a taste of Paris, the French national anthem was performed on screen by Betty Moutoumalaya, who sang the lyrics in sign language.
Choreographer and dancer Sadeck Berrabeh then led a mesmerising dance with 126 seated people, using just their arms and hands. French record producer Pone, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also made an appearance as he led a musical performance only using his eyes.
The handover ceremony was followed by closing speeches from Parsons and Seiko Hashimoto, the head of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee, who both emphasised the importance of giving people with disabilities a chance to shine.
The WeThe15 movement makes another appearance
First debuted at the opening ceremony, the WeThe15 movement is a collaborative campaign fighting disability and discrimination. The movement is backed by a number of organisations including the International Paralympic Committee, Unesco and the Invictus Games. The number represents the 15 percent of the world’s population (that’s over one billion people) who are disabled.
The movement’s official hashtag, #WeThe15, was shared both at the beginning and near the end of the ceremony, with inspiring videos including guest appearances by UN officials and even Prince Harry.
The Paralympic flame is extinguished with a song
Bringing the Games to a close was a beautiful rendition of Louis Armstrong’s 'What a Wonderful World' performed by a range of artists with disabilities, including vocals by Atsushi Okuno, Yuina Koshio and sign-singing by Rimi.
Following their performance, the Tokyo 2020 cauldron was once again extinguished, marking the end of the Games in Tokyo, but not before a final blast of fireworks.
As the ceremony ended, a final message was shown by performers and volunteers, recognising the incredible efforts of each and every Paralympic athlete.
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Tokyo 2020 recap
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