Tokyo holds its breath for the most precarious Paralympics of all

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paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - GETT IMAGES
paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - GETT IMAGES

It feels as if the Tokyo Paralympics are tapping into a febrile moment in identity politics, one where the values of a younger audience have shifted decisively in favour of the marginalised and disenfranchised. “The most transformative sports event is about to begin,” declared Andrew Parsons, president of the International Paralympic Committee, at the city’s National Stadium, having argued that people with disability should mobilise a mass movement on a par with Black Lives Matter. And yet, as Tokyo becomes the first two-time host of this stirring human celebration, a sense grows that the 16th Games might just be the most precarious of all.

In one sense, the return to Japan signals a stunning expansion of Paralympic sport, with the 375 athletes present here in 1964 mushrooming to 4,500 this time around. But few among them enjoy the protections or perks of elite sport. Take Britain’s Aled Davies, the shot put champion who has trained in his back garden in a net strung between two apple trees. Or Patrick Flanagan, the Irish swimmer who discovered on arrival that his wheelchair had been smashed beyond repair by baggage handlers. For all the grandiose packaging of the modern Games, the ordeals of the humble athlete can make them seem an incorrigibly fly-by-night affair.

By far the largest impediment to this event’s success is the absence of crowds. For all that vacant seats have been a persistent backdrop to mid-pandemic sport, they are regarded by Paralympians with a shudder, as a throwback to how life used to be. Memories remain raw of Atlanta 1996, when ticket sales were barely five per cent of those for the Olympics, and when preparations seemed so half-hearted that even the mobility ramps were too steep. Full houses in London and Rio shook off that image, establishing the Paralympics less as a minor sequel than as a captivating showpiece in its own right.

The worry is that Tokyo, having sacrificed 12 days of sell-outs for ghostly emptiness due to rising Covid cases, could represent a retrograde step. “Compared to past Games,” says Saki Takakuwa, a Japanese runner whose right leg was amputated below the knee due to a bone tumour, “it’s difficult for me to have hope that people will feel something.” While a record 3.1 million tickets were requested during the first lottery in 2019, attitudes towards disability in Japan are hardly progressive. In one academic survey in the country last year, 57 per cent of respondents said they “certainly or somewhat” believed that people with disabilities were weak and had problems living with non-disabled people.

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony. - REUTERS
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony. - REUTERS

It is these preconceptions that the IPC is hell-bent on shattering. The work is well-advanced in the UK, not least through Channel Four’s “it’s rude not to stare” messaging. But in Japan, the picture is more complex, with the government forced to apologise in 2018 for falsely registering disabled workers on its staff just to meet quotas. Athletes can face similar obstacles: Miki Matheson, the deputy chief of Japan’s Paralympic delegation, who lost mobility in her legs in a car accident, reflected this week that while she would forget about her disability at home in Canada, “I’m often treated as a disabled person when I’m back in Japan.”

The struggle was underscored by an opening ceremony that did not stint on symbolism. Under the gaze of Emperor Naruhito, choreographers conjured an imaginary “Para Airport”, where a plane was initially convinced she could not fly because she only had one wing. For once, the childlike metaphors did not appear overblown, given the need to offer the next generation some lessons in Paralympic courage. There is a plan for tens of thousands of schoolchildren to access venues in coming days, to help encourage a change in perspective.

More widely, the resolve to make these Games the most memorable yet is unmistakable. US rights-holder NBC, rightly derided for showing just 5½ hours of Paralympic coverage at London 2012, has committed to 1,200 hours for Tokyo, including highlight shows in primetime. But beyond the heightened exposure, Paralympians also crave recognition. In the eyes of the IPC, it is not enough that they should just settle for fleeting, quadrennial fame.

“We have seen movements like LGBTQ, Black Lives Matter, MeToo, and we need something similar for disability,” Parsons said. “It’s about understanding that 1.2 billion people – 15 per cent of the global population – cannot be ignored.” Ellie Simmonds, the British flag-carrier in Tokyo and a contender to win a third successive title in the Paralympic pool, has drawn the same parallel, portraying BLM activism as a model to which the Paralympics should aspire.

It is not a view that will be universally shared, given BLM’s more extreme and disruptive aims, but there is little doubt that the Paralympics are being positioned as part of a broader crusade. Last week, over 125 landmarks around the world, including Tokyo’s Rainbow Bridge, were bathed in purple, a colour that has long signified the disability community. The gesture was designed to fire the starting gun on a 10-year anti-discrimination campaign.

How, though, do we square these lofty absolutes with the bleak realities that confront so many competitors? US swimmer Becca Myers, who is blind and deaf, had to pull out of Tokyo when her personal care assistant was not permitted to accompany her. Four Pacific Island nations are not here at all due to the prohibitive cost of Australian quarantine. It is a tension particular to these Games: on one side, the rhetoric about dignifying the athletes, and on the other, the hardships and discourtesies they must still endure. Japan must, amid the Covid anxiety of its politicians and the entrenched conservatism of its people, find a way to resolve the conflict.

'TeamGB and ParalympicsGB represent the very best of the country in all its diversity'

By Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Today marks the start of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games – and I cannot wait to see our athletes in action. For the next two weeks we will witness some of the most inspiring and physically impressive athletes on the planet competing at the very top of their game – and doing the whole nation proud as they do so. People like Ellie Simmonds, who thrilled the nation when she won two swimming gold medals at London 2012, followed by another at Rio 2016. Or Dame Sarah Storey, who won two track and two road cycling golds at the London Games and another three medals in Rio.

Like so many people I speak to, I loved watching those athletes soar to glory in previous games – and both will be on our screens again in Tokyo. This moment has been years in the making. I was lucky enough to meet some of our athletes at their Bisham Abbey training camp a few weeks ago, and saw first-hand how hard they worked – through the seemingly endless lockdowns, disrupted training schedules and additional safety measures – in order to prepare and be in peak condition at exactly the right time.

One of them was the outstanding Jeanette Chippington, an athlete of incredible versatility. Jeanette racked up 12 medals as a swimmer at five Games, dating back to Seoul in 1988. At the Rio Games, she then returned in a new sport, KL1 200 metre Paracanoeing – and not only secured her 13th medal, but made it a gold. At Tokyo, she will compete yet again. Athletes like Jeanette have worked so hard to make it to the start line. Now they will have their moment on the global stage – and we will be cheering them on loudly from home.

paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - PA
paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - PA

As we have consistently shown as a Government, and underlined in our recently-published National Disability Strategy, we are committed to championing disability sport at every level. That has remained the case throughout the Tokyo 2020 cycle, when Paralympic Sports has received £55 million in public funding – a third of which has come from the Government, with the remainder coming from the National Lottery. We will have ParalympicsGB represented in 19 out of 23 sports, including the new Para-Taekwondo and Para-Badminton events. And that full support will continue in the years ahead.

Earlier this month, I announced that we will be providing £232 million of government funding to aspiring Team GB and ParalympicsGB athletes as they prepare for Paris 2024. This equates to £77.4 million a year, an increase of 44 per cent on funding received for Tokyo 2020, and will be supplemented again by funding from National Lottery players. Birmingham will host the largest fully integrated para-sport programme in the history of the Commonwealth Games next year, and UK Sport is also putting millions of pounds into hosting a programme of major para-sporting events, such as next year’s Rugby League Wheelchair World Cup.

At a grass-roots level, Sport England is investing £20 million this year alone through its Tackling Inequalities Fund to reach and address under-represented groups. So far, more than 500 community projects specifically designed to help disabled people get active have been supported so far. The whole nation benefits from that support. After an extremely difficult 18 months, the wall-to-wall coverage of our sporting heroes in Tokyo has lifted the national mood, and we have got another two weeks of glory to enjoy.

TeamGB and ParalympicsGB represent the very best of the country in all its diversity, and have inspired millions of people to get out and get active. So as people tune into Channel 4’s brilliant coverage and watch these incredible athletes competing at the pinnacle of their careers, I hope they are inspired to get out there and find a sport that they enjoy doing.

In the meantime, with Team GB’s phenomenal achievements still fresh in the memory, let’s all sit back and enjoy some incredible sport – and some more unforgettable memories for the nation.

As it happened:

02:35 PM

That's all folks

On that note, we'll bring this live blog to an end. The 2020 Paralympics Games are here.

It has all the makings of being a great two weeks of sport. Stay with Telegraph Sport for all the best coverage.

02:25 PM

Key Paralympics details

The Paralympics get underway on Wednesday and here are all the dates, times and key events to watch out for over the next two weeks.

02:14 PM

In case you missed it...

02:00 PM

Final update from Gareth A Davies at the National Stadium in Tokyo

That's all from me folks as the night rain falls in Tokyo. Off early to Izu to cover track cycling and Dame Sarah Storey early tomorrow.

Stay tuned for the GB gold rush. Colleagues Molly McElwee and chief sports writer Oliver Brown are also here.

Enjoy the sporting festivities over the next 11 days. We hope you will enjoy our coverage as much as we will being here.

01:58 PM

The Paralympic flame is lit

01:54 PM

The Paralympics are officially open!

Three wheelchair athletes ride up the ramp, each holding a flame. The trio lean forward to light up the cauldron together. It then sparks a spectacular firework show to officially kickstart the games.

Wow.

paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - GETTY IMAGES
paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - GETTY IMAGES
paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - AFP
paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - AFP

01:42 PM

The final act

The Paralympic flame has arrived for the lighting of the cauldron.

01:39 PM

“We have wings"

The one-winged girl finally takes off from Para Airport following all the support she's received throughout the ceremony.

At the end of the performance, a message comes up saying “We have wings".

01:31 PM

Tomoyasu Hotei

We are now getting an acoustic rendition of the Kill Bill theme music by Tomoyasu Hotei. A bit of rock n roll to the show is always welcome.

paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - AFP
paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - AFP

01:22 PM

Paralympic oath

Four people walk onto the stage to read the Paralympic oath. It's taken by a coach, two athletes and a judge.

Now back to the one-winged girl, who is still trying to fly.

01:18 PM

Flag raising

The flag is now passed to essential workers from Japan to represent everyone from around the world. Another heartfelt moment in an emotional ceremony.

The IPC flag is raised to be alongside the Japanese flag as the Paralympic anthen is played.

paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - PA
paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - PA

01:11 PM

Japan’s Emperor Naruhito declares the games open

Now we get a musical bit with the IPC flag brought out by six athletes.

01:08 PM

Latest from Gareth A Davies at the National Stadium in Tokyo

Minister for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games Minister Hashimoto Seiko has a great presence live here, and a real resonance when she speaks. My journalist friend beside me from a Kobe newspaper says she is a great person. You get that being here. She got it over the line.

Now Andrew Parsons, IPC president, who is from Brazil. "We will honour our hosts. We want more. We want to change the entire world." The aim is to challenge the treatment globally of 'We are 15' - the 15 per cent of the world, numbering 1.2 billion - who live with disabilities.

Parsons speaking passionately about the Paralympic Movement and urges all the Paralympians who are sitting in the stadium and competing at the games to show the world what they can do, and change the lives in communities around the world. Sidenote: the graphics and animation on the field below - anime, paint art, swirling colour - has been off the charts. Good show. Never want these to be too long.

paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - REUTERS
paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - REUTERS

01:05 PM

Parsons speaks

The Paralympic Games are a platform for change. Difference is a strength, it is not a weakness. You gave your all to be here. This is now your moment to show your skill to the world. You are the best of humanity. You are amazing.

01:01 PM

'Good evening and welcome to the 2020 Paralympic Games'

"I can't believe we are here. The most transformative sports event is about to begin," says Parsons.

12:58 PM

Speech time

Minister for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games Minister Hashimoto Seiko and International Paralympic Committee chief Andrew Parsons walk onto the stage to deliver some remarks.

paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - REUTERS
paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - REUTERS

12:55 PM

Welcome to Para Airport

The audience is invited to take a trip on a one-winged plane, demonstrated by a young girl in a wheelchair.

Unable to fly, the girl is shown that each plane has some form of impairment but she shouldn't give up on her dreams to eventually fly

12:43 PM

Latest from Gareth A Davies at the National Stadium in Tokyo

Not sure if the commentary have mentioned this on tv, but the central band going around the stadium between tiers displays all the athletes names along it as they parade out.

Nice... USA looking like a strong outfit. More hours being broadcast on tv of this over there than ever before. Their game had to be upped. Tv coverage used to be woeful. No longer. We are going there soon...

12:42 PM

Athletes parade is complete

All 160 countries are into the stadium. We now await the flame being lit up.

But first some speeches. It's starting to rain in Tokyo.

12:37 PM

Selfie time

12:36 PM

Team Japan

The music changes and the hosts arrive. What a moment of them. Wearing white blazers and red trousers, the Japanese team come into the stadium. They failed to win gold in Rio 2016. Expect that to change this year.

paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - AFP
paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - AFP

12:34 PM

Team France

Team France next. They host the next summer Games in 2024.

paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - AFP
paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - AFP

12:33 PM

Team USA

Team USA arrives. Ralph Lauren outfits. 242 athletes. A fair portion of them have come out for the parade.

paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - AFP
paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - AFP

12:25 PM

The athlete parade goes on!

A reminder that Japan will be the last nation out. We are yet to see Team USA.

Malawi, Malta and Mexico. Sombreros and waistcoats from the Mexican delegation. Like that.

12:15 PM

National Stadium filling up

Great range of outfits on show. Typical green and yellow of Brazil followed by Bulgaria and Burkina Faso athletes with tremednous headwear.

The stadium is really starting to fill up.

12:12 PM

Latest from Gareth A Davies at the National Stadium in Tokyo

Para athletes are real life heroes, says Sachin Tendulkar - was a headline I read earlier today.

'It is time for the Paralympics and I would like to appeal to all Indians to get behind our contingent of 54 athletes in Tokyo," Tendulkar said in a statement, as an "eye-opener" to people what one can do with passion and determination.

"I have always believed that these women and men are not athletes with special abilities. Rather, they are women and men of extraordinary ability who are all real life heroes for each one of us.

"Their journeys are an eye-opener to what women and men can do with passion, commitment and determination and serve as inspiration for every one of us."

It was put out as a statement. But nice to see that Sachin Tendulkar gets it. Like Marcus Rashford earlier tonight. Human beings that appreciate what this is.

12:07 PM

Latest from Gareth A Davies at the National Stadium in Tokyo

DJ doing a fine job here ... bit of dancing to be had with some old school feel tunes there.And wow ! Chinese athletes out in force. They will lead the medal table at the end. The powerhouse. 83 million disabled people in China, way more than the entire population of GB.

paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - AFP
paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - AFP

12:05 PM

Non-stop athletes

136 athletes repping Team Germany at the Paralympics. Followed by three from Togo. Nigeria arrive in their green and white. You love to see it.

12:00 PM

Athletes keep on coming

Tanzania, Czech Republic, Central African Republic and China. 255 Chinese athletes are here. Massive squad.

11:52 AM

Yellow swedes

Every athlete we see are lapping up this special occasion. The DJ on the side is loving it too!

You'll never fail to not spot the Swedes with their yellow attire.

paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - GETTY IMAGES
paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - GETTY IMAGES

11:46 AM

We are rattling through now

Grenada also making their debut. They have two athletes taking part in the parade. Croatia then Kenya and Ivory Coast come into the stadium.

11:41 AM

Latest from Gareth A Davies at the National Stadium in Tokyo

Out come GB.... Stubbs and Simmonds pleased as punch. Only about eighteen of the team of 228 as I counted from high up above the here in the media tribune. Penny Briscoe, GB chef de mission, keeping 'em all locked down and ready for competition. GB has been a powerhouse at the Paralympics. The GB team claimed 147 medals in Rio in 2016, including 64 gold, 39 silver and 44 bronze medals.

Here, GB athletes compete in 19 out of the 22 sportsCan they go better this time? Does it even matter... ? There is an overwhelmingly sense of relief that the Games have made it here.

As Andrew Parsons, the IPC President, emphasised on the eve of the Opening Ceremony: "These games had to happen because they are the most important games in history. These are bigger than just 4400 athletes being here; this is about using sport to change the lives for 1.2 billion people with disabilities in the world."

paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - AP
paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - AP

11:38 AM

Debutants

Guyana make their debut in the Paralympics. Shout out to the volunteers dancing as the athletes come in. They must be getting tired...

11:35 AM

Sign of respect

Nice touch by the two Australian flag bearers to come out and bow.

11:34 AM

Team Russia

Like the Olympics, there is a Russian Paralympic team here. And it's a big group of them.

11:32 AM

ParalympicGB arrive

ParalympicGB follow Uruguay as Ellie Simmons and John Stubbs carry the flag. There's a 30 year age gap between them. Even with her mask on you can see Simmonds' beaming smile.

Earlier, ParalympicsGB legend Tanni-Grey Thompson said on Channel 4 that a top five medal finish would be a good result.

11:28 AM

Tallest athlete at the Paralympics

Iran have brought 60 athletes, six of them women. One of the lads in the team is a very big lad.

India, Indonesia and Uganda follow.

11:26 AM

William and Kate good luck message

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have wished the ParalympicsGB athletes the best of luck ahead of the Tokyo Games.

A British team made up of 227 athletes across 19 of the 22 Paralympic sports is gearing up to compete in Japan.

Swimmer Ellie Simmonds and archer John Stubbs have been selected as Great Britain's flagbearers, with the honour of leading team-mates into the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony on Tuesday.

William and Kate's @KensingtonRoyal social media accounts posted: "Wishing @ParalympicsGB and all the athletes from around the world the best of luck in this year's #Paralympics.

"We can't wait to see the talent and skill displayed over the next two weeks #ImpossibleToIgnore."

The Earl of Wessex, patron of ParalympicsGB, also issued a message of support.

Edward said in a video message: "We want you to go out there and achieve your best, make us proud, and inspire the next generation of athletes with a disability.

"And whatever happens, I hope you have a brilliant experience in Japan."

The Games, with the sporting action starting on Wednesday, will feature 539 events across 22 sports hosted at 21 venues, but spectators are barred because of the pandemic.

11:24 AM

Latest from Gareth A Davies at the National Stadium in Tokyo

I can report from the stadium that the end of the show was simply spectacular. Those three symbols. Mind. Body. Spirit. Interesting time to consider those things. Here they come...our protagonists for the Paras.

Out early, Afghanistan ... I believe Afghanistan's only athlete at the Games will be Abbas Karimi, one of the flagbearers for the Refugee Paralympic Team, having fled his home nation in 2013.

11:23 AM

'Act of solidarity'

Ireland and Azerbaijan. The Afghanistan flag is next but they have brought no athletes. IPC opting to show their flag in an act of solidarity.

paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - REUTERS
paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates tokyo 2020 - REUTERS

11:20 AM

Athletes parade

Refugee team are the first team out followed by Iceland, who have six athletes.

We are going in the order of the Japanese alphabet.

11:19 AM

Short and sweet

Unfortunately we didn't see the end of the show as Channel 4 went for an ad break. Annoying.

Anyway, the athletes are on their way!

11:17 AM

Everyone loves fireworks

The shapes that will form the Paralympics symbol are brought into the stadium and as they come together it sparks a firework display, which look like they cost a fortune.

11:14 AM

Para Airport

Para airport comes to life as the performer start building in a colourful routine.

Quite a show already.

11:09 AM

History made

Japan are the first country to host the Paralympics twice. The Japanese flag is slowly brought down by a group of athletes before being handed over to members of the self defence forces.

And now it's time for the national anthem.

paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates toyko 2020 - REUTERS
paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates toyko 2020 - REUTERS

11:04 AM

Fireworks mark start of Tokyo Paralympics 2020

11:03 AM

Here we go!

It's go time in Tokyo for the opening ceremony and it begins with a dance routine from the para airport group.

10:58 AM

Prime Minister Boris Johnson sends a message to ParalympicsGB

10:55 AM

Protests outside the Olympic Stadium

paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates toyko 2020 - REUTERS
paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates toyko 2020 - REUTERS
paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates toyko 2020 - REUTERS
paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates toyko 2020 - REUTERS
paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates toyko 2020 - REUTERS
paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates toyko 2020 - REUTERS

10:49 AM

GB flagbearers

John Stubbs and Ellie Simmonds will carry the British flag into the stadium. Stubbs is the oldest member of GB's team while Simmonds is one of the best medal hopes.

paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates toyko 2020 - PA
paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates toyko 2020 - PA
paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates toyko 2020 - PA
paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates toyko 2020 - PA

10:38 AM

'Different, but normal'

We'll be bringing you updates from our reporters in Tokyo and here's the first from Gareth A Davies...

I am sitting in the Olympic Stadium contemplating the start of the Paralympic Games. There are 400-odd media in here. Watched the skies go grey then dark around the rim of the stadium, as the lights went up inside. Soon the athletes will parade out from more than 160 countries represented here. Different, but normal.

And all at the forefront of their own physicality. It's deep, this movement, and it's full of the most amazing stories. Told by so many here. Covid has made the place restricted, travel long, and it's laden with protocols.

Apart from that, I'm here at the Summer Paras for the seventh time. And every time, it is so worth it. The deep triumph of the human spirit, over and over again, through sport.

paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates toyko 2020 - GETTY IMAGES
paralympics opening ceremony 2021 live updates toyko 2020 - GETTY IMAGES

10:28 AM

Marcus is a class act

10:20 AM

Covid blow for Britain's men's wheelchair basketball team

Great Britain's men's wheelchair basketball team will be without their head coach as they begin their Games on Thursday, after he tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of travelling. Great Britain are the current men's world champions, but their coach Haj Bhania will not be on the sidelines as they go for gold in Tokyo, after a positive test forced him to remain in the UK.

He will oversee the tactical direction of both the men's and women's squads remotely, while Rio bronze medallist Gaz Choudhry has been promoted to player-coach for the men's side. Coach Simon Fisher remains in charge of the women's team on the ground. This was the second close brush with coronavirus the ParalympicsGB team has faced ahead of the sport beginning on Wednesday.

Up until Monday, two British athletes were self-isolating, after they were deemed close contacts of a member of the swimming squad’s support team who tested positive in Japan. The athletes have since been given the green light to train and compete, though are following stringent extra protocols like eating in their rooms as a precaution.

By Molly McElwee

10:11 AM

What's on the website

Telegraph Sport has plenty of stories for you to read ahead of the Paralympics. Here's just a few...

10:00 AM

Good morning

The 2020 Paralympic Games will kick off in Tokyo with the opening ceremony on Tuesday as Japan struggles with its worst Covid-19 outbreak so far, record daily cases and an overwhelmed medical system.

The organisers admitted last week that the Paralympics will be held under "very difficult" circumstances as Japan's health situation has worsened since the Olympic Games ended on August 8 and hospitals in the host city are filled to capacity.

The Japanese government and the Tokyo Metropolitan government appealed on Monday to hospitals in the capital to accept more Covid-19 patients as increasing infections have made access to care increasingly difficult.

"I'm a little concerned about holding the Paralympic Games. Still, I hope the athletes will do their best," said 52-year-old office worker Chika Sasagawa.

While the number of athletes and officials travelling from abroad is less than a third of that during the Olympics, Japan reported more than 25,000 daily cases on three days last week, up from less than 15,000 when the Olympics ended earlier this month.

Organisers of the Paralympics, which will take place between Aug. 24 and Sept. 5, have said they plan to implement the same Covid-19 protocols or "playbook" as the ones used during the Olympics.

Frequent testing and other restrictions, such as limiting the movement of athletes and officials, proved to be effective in minimising infection risks during the Games, they have added.

Like the Olympics, the Paralympics will also take place generally without spectators and organisers have asked the domestic Games officials to avoid eating out or drinking in groups.

About 88 per cent of thousands of athletes and officials attending the Games have been vaccinated, the International Paralympic Committee spokesperson Craig Spence has said, though a number of local volunteers are yet to be fully vaccinated.

"Compared to the Olympics, the Covid infections have spread further now. I have many concerns but I believe that Japan as a host country is making all the efforts so that athletes can compete safely in the Games," said Tokyo resident Kana Matsuyama, 45.

The International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach is scheduled to attend Tuesday's opening ceremony.

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