Colorful Paralympics closing ceremony concludes Tokyo 2020 as Paris celebrates the handover

Afghanistan’s Zakia Khudadadi and Hossain Rasouli, who were able to escape from their country during the Games, carried their flag during the closing ceremony.

Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games - The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Closing Ceremony - Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - September 5, 2021. General view of fireworks during closing ceremony. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games - The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Closing Ceremony - Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - September 5, 2021. General view of fireworks during closing ceremony. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

TOKYO - Tokyo 2020 came to a colorful end on Sunday as the Paralympics closing ceremony brought the delayed Games to a close at the national stadium.

The 13-day Paralympics, the second to be hosted in Japan following the Tokyo 1964 Games, featured over 4,000 athletes and 539 events across 22 sports including badminton and taekwondo which were included for the first time (as replacements for sailing and 7-a-side football).

The Games, which were delayed by one year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, sent a message ‘Unity and Diversity’ and the concepts for the closing ceremony were ‘Harmonious Cacophony’ and ‘Moving Forward’.

Sunday’s closing ceremony featured 2,000 Athletes & Team Officials, 850 Games stakeholders and guests of honor (700 from overseas, 150 domestic) and 2,250 members of the media.

Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games - The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Closing Ceremony - Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - September 5, 2021. Hossain Rasouli of Afghanistan and Zakia Khudadadi of Afghanistan carry the flag of Afghanistan during the closing ceremony  REUTERS/Issei Kato     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games - The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Closing Ceremony - Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - September 5, 2021. Hossain Rasouli of Afghanistan and Zakia Khudadadi of Afghanistan carry the flag of Afghanistan during the closing ceremony REUTERS/Issei Kato TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Afghanistan’s Zakia Khudadadi (taekwondo) and her teammate Hossain Rasouli (athletics) carried their country’s flag in an emotional scene during the closing ceremony.

When the Paralympics opened on August 24 it was understood that the Afghanistan team would not compete, as per an IPC announcement, but a secret operation saw the team flee the Taliban controlled Kabul to train in Paris before making a late arrival in Tokyo.

The first set of ‘I’m POSSIBLE’ awards, which was established by IPC and supported by Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Centre, were awarded to two schools from Chiba in Japan, including a special needs school, and the best overseas school is from Malawi.

Athletes Lassam Katongo of Zambia, and Katarzyna Rogowiec of Poland also received of ‘I’m POSSIBLE’ awards.

The IPC then unveiled six newly elected members of the IPC Athletes Council.

Martina Caironi (Italy, Para Athletics), Daniel Dias (Brazil, Para Swimming), Omara Durand Elias (Cuba, Para Athletics), Takayuki Suzuki (Japan, Para Swimming), Jitske Visser (Netherlands, Wheelchair Basketball) and Zahra Nemati (Iran, Para Archery) will serve for the next three years until the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.

Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games - The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Closing Ceremony - Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - September 5, 2021. Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo receives the Paralympic flag from International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons for the handover ceremony during closing ceremony. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games - The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Closing Ceremony - Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - September 5, 2021. Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo receives the Paralympic flag from International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons for the handover ceremony during closing ceremony. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

The Paralympic anthem played as the IPC flag was lowered and Governor Yuriko Koike presented it to IPC President Andrew Parsons who in turn awarded it to Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo on behalf of the Paris 2024 organizing committee.

The French national anthem, La Marseillaise, the played as the flag of the host nation of the next Olympics and Paralympics was raised in the national stadium.

Crowd in Paris for handover ceremony from Tokyo (Paris 2024)
Crowd in Paris for handover ceremony from Tokyo (Paris 2024)

The celebration switched to France, where the first Paralympic ceremony in Paris featured performances including a musical mix by Pone, a member of the Fonky Family hip hop band who has since been diagnosed with ALS. He produced his performance entirely through the movement of his eyes.

The French public was part of the celebration at the “Live des Jeux” live site in the shadows of the Eiffel Tower. The French Paralympic medalists returning from Tokyo were on stage along with Paris 2024 President Tony Estanguet, just like their Olympic counterparts last month at a similar event.

Eiffel Tower Paralympics image (Paris 2024)
Eiffel Tower Paralympics image (Paris 2024)

The Paris ceremony concluded with an image of the Eiffel Tower sporting a blade in place one of its feet and with a purple flag featuring the Paris 2024 emblem flying from its summit – a reference to the #WeThe15 campaign led by the IPC.

Back in Japan, Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto President said: “Our long journey is now coming to an end, the Paralympics are its final stage, it has been a wonderful event with smiles in every venue.

“Eight years ago we promised the world true Japanese hospitality, it is thanks to your respect for each other and your unity of spirit even in the face of such difficult times, that we could successfully deliver these Games. I am very proud of all of you.

“To the athletes we were overwhelmed by the amazing performances, we saw your conviction, determination and unending hard work as you refused to set limits for yourselves.

“Your impact as Paralympians has a message for all of us. You have inspired so many of us to start new journeys.

“I am so glad we hosted the Olympic and Paralympic Games. In 2024, athletes and supporters all over the world will be united again. We send the city of Paris our sincerest good wishes for a success Games. We will meet again soon!”

Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games - The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Closing Ceremony - Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - September 5, 2021. International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons speaks during closing ceremony. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games - The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Closing Ceremony - Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - September 5, 2021. International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons speaks during closing ceremony. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

IPC President Andrew Parsons said: “After eight remarkable years I cannot believe our time here is almost done. What a journey, what a Games.

“Thank you very much Tokyo. Together against the odds we did it, the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics have not just been historic, they have been historic, athletes gave confidence and hope to the world.

“Athletes broke records, warmed hearts, opened minds and most importantly changed lives.

“To the people of Japan you made this possible, you warmly welcomed us and enabled athletes to excel. The Paralympic movement has a message to you, we love you Tokyo, we love you Japan!

“I have immense gratitude for everyone in the Games, thank you to the IPC team, thank you IOC, thank you President Hashimoto, Prime Minister Suga, President Seiko Hashimoto, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, NPCs, IFs, thank you all.

“The world’s media, obviously, thank you for telling the stories of these Games.

“Volunteers – you are the pride of you people. Your enthusiasm brought energy and passion every day. Thank you very much to the volunteers.

“The time has come for me to declare the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games closed. I call on Paralympic athletes all over the world to meet again in three years time in Paris.”

Outgoing Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who announced on Friday that he will resign this month with the public losing faith in his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, was also in attendance.

The ceremony finished with the flame being extinguished amid carnival scenes among the delegations and rows of media who savored the most unique Paralympics in history.

KEEP READING: