Paralympics declared open, Tek Chand leads Indian contingent

Tokyo, Aug 24 (IANS) A little one-winged plane who dreams of taking to the sky but has to cross many hurdles before it succeeds — depicting the internal and external struggles of a physically challenged person — formed the core theme of a technically well-orchestrated ceremony at which Japanese Emperor Naruhito declared the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games open on Tuesday.
The Little One-Winged Plane, with several people helping her set up her dream by preparing the runway, fuelling her dream, made it to the centre stage soon after the ceremony started, and remained part of the narrative till it achieved its dream accompanied by a big musical number with musicians and dancers with varying impairments at the heart of it.
The Little One-Winged Plane was played by Wago Yui, who has never performed before. She was cast because of her adorable smile and facial expressions, her dedication, and her natural ability.
And for the nearly three-hour opening ceremony, the Little One-Winged Plane depicted the life story of a majority of the 4,403 athletes from 162 territories that have gathered in Tokyo for the Paralympic Games despite the health scare caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
While the Little One-Winged Plane was going through its struggles on the para airport, representatives from 162 nations and a team of refugees walked into the Olympic Stadium, which had witnessed an opening ceremony for the Olympics a few weeks back, keeping the focus on the athletes who will be getting into the field searching for medals.
The Indian contingent at the Parade was led by javelin thrower Tek Chand, who came in as a late-minute replacement as the organising committee asked India’s original flag bearer Mariyappan Thangavelu to go into isolation because he had come in close contact with a Covid-positive person during his flight from India to Japan. Only a limited number of Indian athletes and officials participated in the ceremony. Six athletes, along with Mariyappan, are in quarantine.
Though no athlete was representing Afghanistan, the International Paralympic Committee broke tradition and included the country’s flag in the opening ceremony as a gesture of “solidarity and peace”. Afghanistan’s flag was carried by a Tokyo 2020 volunteer, who was accompanied by a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees representative. Two athletes were to represent Afghanistan in Tokyo but they could not make it because of the chaos caused by Taliban taking over of their country.
The Parade was led by the Refugee Paralympic Team and ended with Japan stepping in last for the Games held after the pandemic.
China, which is participating in the Summer Paralympics for the 10th consecutive time, has sent a delegation of 251 athletes — 132 female and 119 male — with the oldest athlete being 56 years old and the youngest 16 years old. The Chinese will compete in 20 of the 22 sports.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach is among the very few spectators invited at the opening ceremony.
As the coronavirus situation has worsened in Japan in recent weeks, the Paralympics will also take place generally without spectators, as was the case with the Olympics.
The ceremony included the usual music and dance and fireworks that lit up the Tokyo skyline for the second time this month after the Olympics closing ceremony.

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