By Chihiro Kai
(This article was completed 22:06)
As I sit here in the Tokyo Olympic Stadium press section, the seats are vibrating from the music and bass blasting out of the speakers. Even before the opening ceremony began, all the Paralympians seated on the stadium field were celebrating.
The United Kingdom and Peruvian teams were ecstatically encouraging their international peers to take advantage of their circular seating arrangement to complete a whole wave. The wave would make it through 2/3 of the Paralympians before losing momentum in the last 1/3 section adjacent to the flag poles. After each attempt would die out on its final leg, the particularly invested athletes from Peru and the U.K. would stand up and urgently “gesture” to the responsible section.
Finally, when the wave accomplished a full lap “around the globe,” so to speak, you could hear the whole stadium, including those of us in the press booths which have been following the wave’s progress, cheer and clap at this spontaneous game. The wave’s informal and collective nature lent it an intimacy that elevated our joy at its success.
Now, it has been early 30 minutes since the wave experienced a natural death. And yet, despite the pageantry and impressive stage production of the closing ceremony, I don’t believe anything that has transpired on the field has made me and my fellow reporters laugh and smile as it did. At least, that was the case with the two Japanese reporters flanking me at my table.
Representatives from each participating Paralympic team have been adding circular mirrors to a miniature figure of Tokyo Skytree, the world’s tallest free-standing tower. Just now, the final paralympic deputy for the Japanese team attached the last piece to complete the model. The mirrors represent the windows and natural skeletal gaps on the tower.
Upon its completion, the current focal point of the Tokyo skyline was raised, “Flags of Our Fathers” style by the ceremony’s performers. Who knew relations between the United States and Japan were so tight? (Indulge me in my humor readers. I am both Japanese and American, and that gives me permission to make such dry jokes.)
The first Paralympic I’mPossible Awards are being presented to the first five recipients of the recognition. For further information on the I’mPossible Award, click here.
- Best host country School: Kizarazu Municipal Kiyomidai Elementary School in Chiba, Japan
- Best overseas school: Lilongwe LEA School, Malawi
- Excellence host country school: Chiba Prefectural Togane (I could not catch the end. I believe it was Chiba Prefectural Togane Special Education School)
- Best (Male) I’mPossible Paralympian Award: Lassam Katongo from Zambia. He is a track and race Paralympian and secondary school teacher.
- Best (Female) I’mPossible Paralympian Award: Katarzyna Rogowiec from Poland. A three-time Paralympian and two-time Paralympic gold medalist in cross-country skiing. She is also a former ITC anti-doping committee member.
- The awards for the two Paralympians were accepted by their respective national Paralympic Committees on their behalf.
The Tokyo Skytree “miniature,” which must be roughly five meters tall, accompanies other notable architecture that shapes the city’s skyline, including Rainbow Bridge. You guessed it, the “Rainbow” Bridge is not actually colored in seven distinct shades. However, after numerous complaints that the bridge’s namesake made little sense, a night-time illuminating feature was added.
The closing ceremony’s similarity to a Disneyland parade is as prominent as the August 24 opening ceremony. The fluorescent animal costumes adorned by dancing performers and the musical production remind me of the Mermaid Lagoon Theatre from The Litte Little Mermaid area at Tokyo DisneySea.
“The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games have not just been historic. They have been fantastic,” Andrew Parsons, the president of the International Paralympic Committee, said in his closing speech. He said that despite the games’ accomplishments, the world has flaws with accessibility that no mask can cover.
“As we build back better, 15% of the world’s population cannot be left behind,” Parsons said. “People with disabilities should not have to do exceptional things to be accepted.”
Following a WeThe15 campaign commercial, a Japanese singer seated in his wheelchair sang “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong with a powerful voice would have made the raspy icon proud. The song’s second half was sung by a female singer with a visual impairment. The two voices converged in the final part of the ballad accompanied by a children’s choir.
As a piano player in the center of the stadium played the last notes of the iconic song, the egg-like encasing of the Olympic and Paralympic flame closed, extinguishing the fire that has burned since July 23.
And with that, the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games had ended.
Thank you for following me and Jake Adelstein throughout our coverage of the Olympic and Paralympic Games! It has been a true privilege and honor.