For Paralympians, too, the wait is finally over: The Paralympic Games in Tokyo have officially opened. 17 semi-Belgian athletes attended the beautiful opening ceremony.
It was a long wait for the Belgians to enter the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, but cyclist Michel Georges and goalkeeper Bruno Vanhoef finally carried the Belgian flag.
He was followed by 15 of the 32 Paralympic athletes from the Belgian delegation. The opening ceremony was attended by, among others, Jet Heine, wheelchair tennis players Jeff Vandorp and Joachim Gerrard and other goalie players.
They are aiming for at least ten medals in the next week and a half. In total, about 4,400 athletes competed for 539 gold medals in 22 sports.
A strong message of forgiveness
The opening ceremony carried a strong message of solidarity and tolerance. “Whatever disability you have, the possibilities are endless,” was the basic thought.
It was beautifully portrayed by a 13-year-old Japanese, who was unexpectedly given a leading role at the opening ceremony. I played a plane with only one wing that no longer dared to fly. But seeing other planes – of all shapes and sizes – tearing up the airspace made them flap their wings again.
Finally, the Japanese Emperor Naruhito officially opened the Paralympic Games, after which the Paralympic and Japanese flags were hoisted at the Olympic Stadium.
At the end of the ceremony, some Paralympic icons from Japan were allowed to light the Paralympic torch. The torch was also handed over to three nurses and doctors supporting the athletes.
“We must build a society in which everyone is free”
Seiko Hashimoto, chair of the organizing committee, called for a “barrier-free mindset” in her speech. “These changes are slowly but surely beginning to become an integral part of society.”
“We must build a society in which all are free, live with mutual support as they please, free from discrimination and barriers. Athletes with special needs testify to the limitless potential of human beings. These Games should be a celebration of all that they have achieved.”
WeThe15 must support its message. Persons with disabilities make up 15 percent of the world’s population.
If the world put a sticker on you, now you can be labeled differently: be it a hero, a hero, a friend, or just a human.
Andrew Parsons, president of the International Paralympic Committee, also spoke conciliatory words. “We want to change the whole world,” he opened. “The Paralympic Games are a platform for change, but once every 4 years is not enough.”
“Every day we have to contribute to a more inclusive society in our countries. We are all united in the fight against Covid-19, but some are trying to break that harmony. By ignoring what unites us, discrimination is fueled.”
“Difference is a strength, not a weakness. Paralympic athletes are beacons of hope, and they have never stopped pursuing their dreams. They are a force of nature and their resilience has been an inspiration.”
“If the world ever puts you down, you can now be labeled differently: be it a hero, a hero, a friend, or just a human. It’s now up to you to show your strength.”
Opening Ceremony Report
Entry of the Belgians in pictures:
“Reader. Unapologetic web fanatic. Student. Beer buff. Social media scholar. Alcohol advocate.”