Tokyo bid a colourful farewell to the Paralympics last evening after 12 days of stereotype-defying, record-shattering performances despite a year-long pandemic delay.
International Paralympic Committee chief Andrew Parsons declared the Games closed on a cool night in the Olympic Stadium, saying they had “not just been historic, they’ve been fantastic”.
It was a Games like no other, postponed a year because of the pandemic and dogged by difficulties and low public support in the build-up.
Action did not disappoint when it got underway, with a record 86 teams winning medals and 62 claiming at least one gold.
The closing ceremony, with fans locked out over virus fears but with roughly 2,000 athletes and officials in attendance, took “harmonious cacophony” as its theme.
It featured a riot of neon-clad breakdancers, unicycling butterflies and strutting stilt-walkers, using materials recycled from the Olympic opening ceremony for its vivid props.
Among the athletes carrying their nations’ flags were Afghanistan’s Hossain Rasouli and Zakia Khudadadi, who arrived in Tokyo with the Games already in progress after being evacuated from Taliban-controlled Kabul.
The pair, wearing red and green team tracksuits, handed the flag over to a volunteer before joining other athletes in helping to decorate a replica of Tokyo’s Skytree tower.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike handed the Paralympic flag over to Parsons, who passed it on to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, representing the 2024 hosts. Parsons then announced the end of the Games, bringing the curtain down after 539 gold medals across 22 sports, contested almost entirely behind closed doors because of the virus.
He said, “I don’t want to do this, but the time has come for me to declare the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games closed.”
China finished on top of the medal table with 207, including 96 golds, followed by Britain, the United States and the Russian team.
Sri Lanka finished 57th in the medals table with two medals. Sri Lanka’s Dinesh Priyantha secured the first ever Paralympic gold medal when he won the javelin Men’s F-46 category with a throw of 67.79m and also set a new world record.
Sri Lanka’s Samitha Dulan Kodithuwakku meanwhile won the bronze medal in the Men’s Javelin Throw F64 event.
The next Paralympic Games will be held in Paris in 2024.