Tokyo Paralympics begin with early success from Team GB

With over 4000 athletes and 539 medal events in this year's Paralympic Games, many are hoping the event will be a catalyst for positive social change in Japan. 

Tokyo Paralympics begin with early success from Team GB

The 16th Summer Paralympic Games kicked off on the 24th of August. The Games will take place every day until the 5th of September, covering 549 events in 22 different sports. Like the Olympics earlier in the year, the Paralympics will have no spectators in the stands.

This did not lessen the excitement in the air during the opening ceremonies however. Once the cauldron was lit, delegations from each participating country were led out by the Paralympic Refugee Team, which consists of six athletes who, according to the IPC represent ‘the more than 82 million people around the world who have been forced to flee war, persecution and human rights abuses - 12 million of whom live with a disability.’

The opening ceremony was one of the most vibrant to date, with dancers, fireworks, light displays and other less traditional celebratory events, such as a narrative involving a one-winged plane learning to fly, as part of the Games’ ‘we can fly’ theme. 

In terms of Covid-19, Paralympic athletes have been particularly disadvantaged, due to some of them needing to shield as part of medical precautions, which can be highly disruptive for their training regimes. 

The importance of the Games has been summarised by Andrew Parsons, IPC President, who stated ‘it’s the moment we can give the world’s billion people with a disability a voice in a moment where they most need to be heard because they have been left behind during a crisis.’ 

This message holds particular relevance in Japan, which still has many steps to take towards supporting those with physical disabilities. There is still a widespread bias against people with disabilities in Japanese society, which, despite taking important steps towards accessibility in recent years, still lags behind on the global stage in terms of inclusivity. There is the desire for the Paralympic Games to demonstrate the extraordinary resilience and physical ability of the disabled community in a way that further changes perceptions. 

Team GB have already made headway with six medals on the table during the first day of events. Sarah Storey won her 15th gold medal whilst participating in the women’s pursuit C5, further cementing her position as one of Britain’s most decorated athletes. 

With many more athletic milestones still to take place, the Paralympic Games will be the premier summer event to watch in the coming days. 

Header Image Credit: "Paralympic Agitos Flag" by Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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Hamish Gray

Hamish Gray Kickstart

Hamish Gray is a recent English Literature and Creative Writing graduate with a deep passion for anything that grabs him, be it literature, film, video games or world culture. He is always looking to learn something new and tackles each experience with the unshakeable belief that good art can come from anywhere.

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