What you need to know:
- North Africa led the African nations with Tunisia the top-ranked from the continent with 11 medals (4-5-2) in 28th place with Algeria in 29th on an inferior silver count with 12 medals (4-4-4) and Morocco 30th (4-4-3).
- Kenya, jointly with eight other nations, was at the basement of the medals table with the one bronze won in the women’s T11 (visually impaired athletes) 1,500 metres through Nancy Chelangat Koech.
The last two months in Japan have been most dramatic on and off the field of play.
On the field, Tokyo is slowly going back to default settings after high-adrenalin action in the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Off it, the Japanese political scene is rising to a crescendo ahead of the eagerly-anticipated ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) presidential elections.
As the Olympic Stadium in the Japanese capital once again put on a brilliant show in last night’s Paralympic Games closing ceremony themed “Harmonious Cacophony,” political analysts were busy dissecting the LDP race after Japan’s Prime Minister and Party Leader Yoshihide Suga declared on Friday that he would not seek re-election, throwing the race for party leadership and the premiership wide open.
So demanding is the Japanese PM’s position that over the last two decades, incumbents have lasted just about one year in office!
These include Yoshiro Mori (April, 2000 to April, 2001), Shinzo Abe (September, 2006 to September, 2007 – Abe was later to become longest serving PM in his second stint from 2012-2020), Yasuo Fukuda (September, 2007 to September 2008), Taro Aso (September, 2008 to September, 2009), Yukio Hatoyama (September, 2009 to June, 2010), Naoto Kan (June, 2010 to September, 2011) and Yoshihiko Noda (September, 2011 to December, 2012).
Suga’s decision not to run at the LDP presidential election on September 29 has dominated the headlines here over the weekend, knocking the Paralympic Games off the top perch even as the Games concluded with the verdict that they had successfully navigated through the turbulent coronavirus waters.
The enforcement of Covid-19 protocols at the Paralympics was crucial as many of the competing athletes had underlying health conditions and officials had to be double sure about prevention mechanisms.
Kenya might have performed dismally with just one bronze medal to show, but the coronavirus pandemic may have affected effective preparations.
Meanwhile, the message under last night’s closing ceremony theme “Harmonious Cacophony,” was quite clear with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) seeking to demonstrate “a united world inspired by the Paralympics, one where differences shine.”
Over 11,500 athletes featured at the July 23 to August 8 Olympic Games and about 4,400 were at the Paralympics, the latter in which para-badminton and para-taekwondo were introduced as new sports.
The Paralympic athletes crushed stigma with some fine performances and the human interest stories won over Games sceptics.
The Games also raised more awareness about people living with disabilities, with a transport system more accessible for people with disability in Tokyo one of the quick wins and lasting legacies.
It was during the opening ceremony of the Paralympics that IPC President Andrew Parsons announced the launch of the “WeThe15” - a rallying call to have the voices of persons with disabilities, who form 15 percent of the global population, heard.
“In Japan, there is a beautiful ancient philosophy called Kintsugi. It means to embrace the imperfections we all have, to not hide them away but to celebrate them,” Parsons said in his powerful closing remarks at last night’s ceremony.
“During our carnival of sport, we have celebrated difference, exhibited the best of humanity, and shown unity in diversity. Our journey cannot end here.
“Tonight, see this not as a closing ceremony, but an opening to a bright and inclusive future. We are at a crucial crossroads for our planet. No mask can cover its flaws.
“As we build back better, 15 percent of the world’s population cannot be left behind.
“We must see beyond the athletes that have performed so well here and see the 1.2 billion persons with disabilities. They can, and they want, to be active citizens in an inclusive world. This was Sir Ludwig Gutmann our founder’s wish.
“Through 'WeThe15', we want to build on Gutmann’s legacy. We want to provide a global movement publicly campaigning for visibility, accessibility and opportunity.
“Sport has opened the door, now it is for time for us all to play our parts to break down the barriers that keep us apart.”
During the closing ceremony, several individuals and institutions were honoured through the “I’mPOSSIBLE Award” for supporting the Paralympic movement.
They included Zambia’s two-time Paralympian Lassam Katongo “who has not only supported the Paralympic Movement in his country as a coach, board member and teacher with the vision of giving to as many people as possible the knowledge and skills to participate in Para sports, but also as a teacher at a local secondary school “who is passionate about teaching Para sport and its values to his students, engaging with his students to make his country more inclusive.”
Malawi’s Lilongwe LEA School was also recognised for “having taken the Paralympic values of courage, determination, inspiration, and equality and applied daily in their classroom.”
About 6,400 teachers and 216,000 students have participated in the I’mPOSSIBLE programme so far.
Despite initial skepticism and local opposition, the Paralympics Games eventually turned out to be a huge success, especially with Japanese athletes performing exceptionally well to finish 11th on the log with 51 medals (13 gold, 15 silver and 23 bronze).
China finished at the top of the medals table with 207 medals (96 gold, 60 silver and 51 bronze) with Great Britain second on 124 (41-38-45) followed in third place by USA with 104 medals (37-36-31).
North Africa led the African nations with Tunisia the top-ranked from the continent with 11 medals (4-5-2) in 28th place with Algeria in 29th on an inferior silver count with 12 medals (4-4-4) and Morocco 30th (4-4-3).
Kenya, jointly with eight other nations, was at the basement of the medals table with the one bronze won in the women’s T11 (visually impaired athletes) 1,500 metres through Nancy Chelangat Koech.
The next Paralympic Games will be held in Paris in 2024.
Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko handed the Paralympic flag to her French counterpart, the Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, at the Olympic Stadium last night.
The ceremony also saw former Seine-Saint-Denis drummer Betty Moutoumalaya open the artistic segment of the Paris 2024 Paralympic flag handover ceremony by performing her interpretation of the Marseillaise (French national anthem) using sign-singing, which translated music through body movement, facial expressions and emotions in order to make it accessible to all.
“The Frenchwoman took up the discipline after an encounter with a deaf audience member unable to experience her music,” organisers explained.