Tokyo’s Paralympic Games opened Aug. 24, with athletes hoping to shatter stereotypes and world records despite a yearlong pandemic delay and a surge in virus cases in Japan.
The Games were officially declared open on the evening of Aug. 24 by Emperor Naruhito but virus rules meant most of the National Stadium’s 68,000 seats were empty.
Still, the excitement is clear among the 4,400 athletes from 162 teams taking part this year.
Among them are Germany’s world-record-setting long-jumper Markus Rehm, dubbed the “Blade Jumper,” and Japan’s wheelchair tennis legend Shingo Kunieda.
China is expected to continue its gold medal dominance and top the table as it has done at every Paralympics since Athens 2004, but host Japan hopes its record 254-strong team can repeat the country’s Olympic gold rush.
This year’s Paralympics will feature 22 sports, with badminton and taekwondo appearing for the first time.
Hanging over the event, however, will be the ever-present shadow of the pandemic, which forced a yearlong delay and at times appeared to threaten cancellation. The virus situation in Japan has worsened dramatically in the weeks since the Olympic opening ceremony. (AFP-Jiji)