Following 12 days of intense competition, the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games officially concluded with the closing ceremony on September 5. Just like the Olympic Games held a month prior, the Paralympic Games were packed with intense competitions and historical moments. The overarching theme of ‘unity and diversity’ played an important role throughout the event. The event itself might have reached its conclusion, but the promise of a more inclusive and diverse future is stronger than ever.
After successfully holding the 16th Summer Paralympics, Tokyo goes down in history as the only city to have ever hosted the event twice. A record-high number of athletes from the 163 teams, including a refugee team, competed in 539 events across 22 sports in the 12-day event. Two sports made their Paralympic debuts: badminton and Taekwondo.
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games began on August 24, with the opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium. Based on the concept “Moving Forward: We Have Wings,” the setting of the “Para Airport” took center stage. Representing the achievements of the Paralympic athletes in the arena, the performance conveyed an uplifting message encouraging viewers around the world to believe in themselves and spread their wings in pursuit of their dreams. After a powerful performance, Japanese athletes Karin Morisaki, Shunsuke Uchida, and Yui Kamiji jointly lit the Paralympic flame, officially starting the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
In the days ahead of the Opening Ceremony, the Paralympic flame passed through 43 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, before finally reaching Tokyo. The concept of the Paralympic torch relay, “Share Your Light” symbolized how one source of light can spread to become a source of hope and support for many. After the opening ceremony, the flame was moved to the hydrogen-powered cauldron placed in Odaiba, where it was located the duration of the Games. The man-made island of Odaiba is a popular shopping and entertainment hub that overlooks Tokyo Bay and offers views of the Olympic and Paralympic Village.
Over the 12 days, athletes competed in venues all around greater Tokyo, as well as cities in the neighboring Shizuoka Prefecture. Many fans followed the Paralympians’ journeys on TV, with broadcasters in Japan reporting strong interest in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics trending amongst locals. The coverage worldwide saw a new record for the Paralympic Games, with over 150 outlets covering the Games in over 177 territories.
In preparation for the Paralympic Games, a lot of research and detailed planning went into ensuring accessibility for all athletes coming to Tokyo. Every aspect including the rooms in the Paralympic Village, the venues, and transportation were designed with a variety of needs in mind. Leading up to and during the Games, efforts were also taken to raise awareness about and promote understanding of what daily life is like for para-athletes. For example, the exhibition The Unfriendly Museum* makes visitors enter in a wheelchair, so that they can experience firsthand the struggles some of the para-athletes face daily. At the Iro x Iro Stadium, visitors could try out various Paralympic disciplines themselves. In addition, the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics has played a crucial role in pushing for improved accessibility in both Tokyo and across all of Japan. By leveraging the awareness and knowledge gained from organizing the Paralympics Games, the hope is to improve the lives of the various minorities living in Japan. The continued effort in improving accessibility is also a part of making Japan a destination that anyone can explore and enjoy.
The closing ceremony on September 5 offered a mishmash of positivity and fun through an engaging show featuring vibrant performances, techno-pop music, and overflowing creativity. Due to the current state of emergency in Tokyo, the seats inside the Olympic Stadium were empty, much like most seats throughout the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, but the energy from the performers filled the atmosphere of the whole stadium and made for a fitting ending to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. As the athletes and the host city bid farewell to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, Tokyo passed on the Paralympic flag to Paris—the host of the 2024 Summer Paralympics. This marked the ending of the Tokyo 2020 Games as a whole, an event unlike anything anyone could have imagined back in 2012 when Tokyo was elected host city for the Games. However, despite the postponement and all uncertainties, the Games managed to make dreams come true for hundreds of athletes and bring people from all the corners around the world together in a way that only the Olympic and Paralympic Games can.
Although the Tokyo 2020 Games are now over, Tokyo still awaits everyone who could not visit the city for the event, and anyone who has been inspired by the Games to explore Japan. Find all the information you need to prepare for your Japan trip here. We hope to see you in Japan when travel resumes!