Paralympics closing marks end of Tokyo’s eight-year Olympic saga

TOKYO: On Sunday, some eight years after the Japanese capital was awarded the Games, the final act of the postponed Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics took place.

The Paralympics came to a close with a colorful, circus-like spectacle at the National Stadium, which was coordinated by Crown Prince Akishino, Emperor Naruhito’s brother. The Olympics have been over for almost a month.

These were the first-ever Olympic and Paralympic Games, which were postponed for a year and marked with footnotes and asterisks. Except for a few thousand at outlying locations outside from Tokyo, no fans were allowed throughout the Olympics. Thousands of schoolchildren were allowed into some Paralympic venues.

On Sunday, Andrew Parsons, president of the International Paralympic Committee, remarked, “There were many times when we believed these games couldn’t happen.” “I had a lot of sleepless nights.”

Harmonious Cacophony was the title of the closing ceremony, which featured both able-bodied and disabled actors. The organizers defined the theme as a world inspired by the Paralympics, where diversity is celebrated.

The Paralympics, like the Olympics, were held despite Tokyo being in a state of emergency owing to the epidemic. Testing athletes periodically and putting them in a bubble, similar to the Olympics, held the virus at bay, despite incidences increased among a Japanese population that is now nearly 50% completely vaccinated.

The president of the Tokyo organizing committee, Seiko Hashimoto, stated, “I feel we have reached the end of the games without any serious complications.”

However, there were consequences. There is a lot of it.

On Friday, two days before the end of the year, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared that he will not be re-elected. Suga hoped that the Olympics would help him win re-election. After a sluggish vaccination deployment in Japan and a difficult decision to hold the Olympics during the pandemic, his approval rating dropped.

Shinzo Abe, who resigned a year ago due to health reasons, was succeeded by Suga. On September 7, 2013, when then-IOC President Jacques Rogge named Tokyo as the 2020 host city ahead of Istanbul and Madrid, Abe stood in the front row of a Buenos Aires hotel ballroom celebrating.

The Paralympics may have a greater impact in Japan than the Olympics in terms of promoting public awareness of individuals with disabilities and providing accessible public space. The Games were unlike any other, having been postponed a year due to the pandemic and plagued by challenges and low popular support in the run-up. When the competition began, however, it did not disappoint, with a record 86 teams earning medals and 62 capturing at least one gold.

The Olympics, according to Parsons, had “opened the door,” and now it was “time for us all to perform our role in breaking down the barriers.”

“We have celebrated difference, highlighted the finest of humanity, and demonstrated unity in diversity during our carnival of sport,” he stated.

The closing ceremony featured a riot of neon-clad break-dancers, unicycling butterflies, and strutting stilt-walkers, using materials recycled from the Olympic opening ceremony for its vivid props. With fans locked out due to virus fears but roughly 2,000 athletes and officials in attendance, the ceremony featured a riot of neon-clad break-dancers, unicycling butterflies, and strutting stilt-walkers.

Afghanistan’s Hossain Rasouli and Zakia Khudadadi, who were evacuated from Taliban-controlled Kabul and arrived in Tokyo with the Games already underway, were among the athletes waving their countries’ flags.

The Paralympic flag was presented to Parsons by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, who then passed it on to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who is representing the 2024 hosts.

The Games were subsequently called to a close by Parsons, who revealed that 539 gold medals had been won in 22 sports.

China won the most medals (207), including 96 golds, followed by the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Russian team.

Despite some teams withdrew due to pandemic difficulties, the Games included 163 delegations, one fewer than the London 2012 record.

The final day’s competition started early in the morning with the marathon events, with Swiss wheelchair champion Marcel Hug defending his T54 title.

Zainab Murtaza

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