Paralympics Close Out With Promise For Paris: We Will Make A Change

TOKYO, Japan — Almost two weeks of battles, achievements, elation, devastation and life-long dreams being realized. Twelve days full of the highest highs and the lowest lows, where the world’s most elite para-athletes all came together during an international crisis to show everyone what they were capable of and what is possible. The Tokyo 2020 Paralympics have come to a close, and now the warriors return home. They represented their countries, they represented their communities and they catalyzed change in the world.

This is what the closing ceremony aimed to celebrate.

Before the show began, the athletes from all different countries were having their own fun sitting out in a circle on the field– doing “the wave” as they waited, raising their arms into the sky and back down in synchronization to cheers from the small and intimate crowd.

Team USA Gold Medalist and men’s Wheelchair Basketball player Matt Scott holds the United States flag during the closing ceremonies in September 5, 2021. (PHOTO CREDIT: Michael A Clubine)

The ceremony was, of course, filled with dazzling performances, fireworks, accolades for the athletes and promises for an even better and brighter Paralympic future. Like in the opening ceremony, the performances starred cast member with varying disabilities– para-dancers, a one-armed guitarist, a deaf musician, a visually impaired singer and a drummer with dwarfism were amongst the many incredible individuals who put on a fantastic show.

The audience were additionally graced by breakdancers, performers carrying LED lights that created stunning images and graphics when held together, unicyclists wearing butterfly wings, a model city of Tokyo erected in the middle of the field and a brilliant fireworks display that shot in spirals off into the sky above the stadium in all different colors. It was truly a spectacle to behold.

The main message of the night was exemplified by Kenji Kohashi, the show director of the ceremony.

“When I assumed the role as director, I thought about what sort of world would be ideal for us. The answer I came to was a world without dualism. . . a world where ‘differences shine.’ Each of us has the power to change the world, and if anything, it is our differences that make the world colorful and fun,” he said.

Governor of Tokyo Seiko Hashimoto and President of The International Olympic Committee Andrew Parsons also gave moving speeches on their appreciation to the athletes, volunteers and the world. Hashimoto addressed the Paralympians.

“We were overwhelmed by your astonishing performances. We saw your conviction, determination and unending hard work as you refused to set yourselves limits,” she said.

Parsons thanked Japan, told the volunteers that they were the pride of their people and said that the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics achieved record athlete participation and record medal wins. However, he emphasized that there was still work to be done.

“Our journey cannot end here. Tonight, see this not as a closing ceremony, but an opening to a bright and inclusive future. . . we must see beyond the athletes that have performed so well here and see the 1.2 billion persons with disabilities. . . as a wise athlete said so perfectly this week: people with disabilities shouldn’t have to do exceptional things to be accepted.”

The athlete to which Parsons referred was Madison de Rozario, a wheelchair racer from Australia.

With the passing of the Paralympic flag from Hashimoto, to Parsons, to Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo, the games have been officially passed onto France for 2024.

The anthem of France was interpreted on video by sign-singer Betty Moutomolaya, and a live broadcast of Paris showed performances by tetraplegic DJ Pone and amputee circus artist Karim Randé to cheers from a crowd in Paris.

Etienne Thobois, CEO of the 2024 Paris Organizing Committee, told the Olympic Information Service in Tokyo that he wants “Paris 2024 to be the most open Games and the most inclusive.”  

With an award ceremony for the first ImPossible awards, a global Paralympic education program developed by the IPC, and a strong emphasis on the WeThe15 movement meant to end discrimination against people with disabilities, there was a major push to create social change through the Paralympics.

The Paralympic Caldron of The Tokyo 2021 Games extinguishing. September 5, 2021 (PHOTO CREDIT: Michael A. Clubine)

At last, as Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” was sang, the torch’s flame was extinguished, marking the end of Tokyo 2020.

Speeches by Seiko Hashimoto (President of the Tokyo Organizing committee of the olympic and paralympic games)

She said that “The flowers given to athletes were grown in the area affected by the earthquake, as well as the ingredients from those areas”

‘We saw yout conviction, determination and unending hard work as you refused to set yourself limits”

“We are determined to build a diverse and inclusive future where people recognize and support each other’s differences free from discrimination or barriers of any kind.”

And andrew parsons president of the international paralympic committee 

“We achieved record athlete participation and record medal wins. 

Sir Lutwigg Gutman – founder of wethe15

“Arigato” means “Goodbye”. So long from Tokyo 2021. September 5, 2021 (PHOTO CREDIT: Michael A. Clubine)
“Arigato” means “Goodbye”. So long from Tokyo 2021. September 5, 2021 (PHOTO CREDIT: Michael A. Clubine)

“People with disabilities should not have to do exceptional things to be accepted” 

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