The 2020 Summer Paralympic Games being held this year in Tokyo are special in ways more than one. For starters, the Tokyo 2020 is set to host 4403 para-athletes this year with the highest number of female athlete representation so far at 1853. At Rio 2016 games, the female athlete figure stood at 1671.
"Over the coming days the outstanding performances of Paralympians will smash stereotypes and demonstrate why persons with disabilities need to be active, visible, and contributing members of a global society now, more than ever," International Paralympic Committee President, Andrew Parsons was quoted on Paralympics.org.
He added, "Although we are still some way short of gender parity, we are heading in the right direction with the number of women competing at the Paralympics almost doubling since the Sydney 2000 Paralympics."
Countries with major contingents and first-time entries
This year the largest delegation of athletes comes from the host country Japan at 254 for 23 disciplines, followed by China at 248 across 21 disciplines. The Russian Paralympic Committee comes next in line with a close 243 across 20 disciplines, followed by USA and Brazil at 235 and 234 respectively. This Paralympics season, a total of 162 countries will participate along with one RPT.
Bhutan, Grenada, Maldives, Paraguay, and St Vincent and the Grenadines will compete for the first time in the Paralympic Games at Tokyo 2020 and all are beneficiaries of the IPC's NPC Development Programme.
Taking refuge in sports
Keeping up with the tradition, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) have paved way for refugees keen on participating in the world games but unfortunately, do not have a country against their name. The Tokyo 2020 Refugee Paralympics team (RPT) will be represented by one female and five male athletes in Para-Athletics, Para-Swimming, Para Canoe and Taekwondo.
The list includes Burundi-born taekwondo fighter Parfait Hakizimana, Syria-born para canoeist Anas Al Khalifa, para-athlete Alia Issa, Syrian refugee Ibrahim Al Hussein, Iran-born discus-thrower Shahrad Nasajpour and Afghanistani refugee Abbas Karimi who is a para-swimmer.
"I want to share (this message) with women around with disabilities: don't stay at home. Try every day with sports to be outside in the world," IPC quoted Alia Issa, whose father fled Syria to Greece in search for a better life for his family.
According to the Paralympics official website, the team represents more than 82 million people around the world who have been displaced for political and religious reasons. Out of this, nearly 12 million live with some kind of physical disability.
Amidst 22 disciplines, badminton and taekwondo mark debut
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games starting today will mark the debut of two sports, badminton and taekwondo, at the Paralympic platform.
While Japan will see Ota Shoko rough it out for the debuting taekwondo medals, back home, five-time national champion Aruna Talwar will be India's only para-taekwondo representation.
Apart from the above-mentioned new sports, the Para Games will witness Archery, Boccia, Football 5-a-side, Goalball, Triathlon, Sitting Volleyball, Wheelchair Rugby, Judo, Powerlifting, Cycling (track and road), Canoe, Athletics amongst others.
Braille friendly medals
For the first time in Paralympic history, visually-impaired athletes can feel their medals by touch and recognize whether its gold, silver or bronze. To help those with vision impairments recognize the different medals by touch, a series of circular indentations have been included on the side of the medals, according to the official IPC page. While one indentation represents gold, two distinguishes silver and three identifies bronze. Also 'Tokyo 2020' has been spelled out in Braille letters on the medals' face.
All Paralympic medals are manufactured from recycled precious metals extracted from mobile phones and other small electronic devices donated by the public. The medals come encased in magnetized wooden cases handcrafted by skilled Japanese artisans using ash.