How we reported the 1964 Paralympics in Tokyo.
This is not our first rodeo. The Guardian was at the Paralympic in Tokyo 57 years ago. On 4 November 1964 our reporter Jessica Young wrote about the various athletes taking part at the Paralympics in “Tokio”.
She spoke to Carole Tetley, a 21-year-old who had been a cycling champion until a crash left her paralysed from the waist. Tetley took up archery and table tennis instead and went on to represent her country at the Games. This is what Carole told our reporter: “I never thought I could get a thrill out of something as static as archery, but when I tried it I found I could do it. That was my first thrill. Now it’s fascinating just to sit there and go zing-zing-zing!”
We’ve dug up a few more of our reports from the 1964 event.
What we have in store over the next fortnight
My colleague Paul MacInnes, who is in Japan for the Games, has been writing about what we should expect from the Tokyo Paralympics.
“Any athlete you talk to, they have resilience,” said Shahrad Nasajpour during a press briefing in Tokyo on Monday. “Part of it comes from the athletic background, so any athlete you talk to they have it. But when you are a refugee athlete or Paralympian, which makes it even harder, the adversity behind makes you more perseverant in your life and in your career.”
Nasajpour, who has cerebral palsy, left his native Iran in 2015 and was granted asylum in the US. He was instrumental in setting up the Paralympic refugee team which competed for the first time in Rio in 2016, and indeed formed 50% of its number. Now, as part of a six-strong team, he will be competing in the F37 discus once again and when the Games get under way in Japan on Tuesday the resilience, perseverance and athletic talent that Nasajpour represents will be the qualities organisers hope to project to a watching world.
As with so much of Tokyo 2020, hope remains an operative word at the Paralympic Games. Covid case numbers continue to rise in both the capital and Japan more broadly, reaching record levels in the past week. There have been cases in the athletes’ village in recent days and four Pacific nations withdrew from competition after being unable to afford the quarantine in Australia en route.
There will be fewer spectators than at the Olympics, where fans were allowed to attend some venues outside Tokyo, though there are still plans to allow up to 140,000 schoolchildren to have access to events. The latest development is the suggestion that Paralympic venues could be transformed into emergency medical facilities once the Games have ended, a legacy very different from anything anticipated 18 months ago.
A few facts and figures about the next 13 days.
Tokyo is the first city to host two summer Paralympics, having also hosted the event in 1964 (the city also hosted the Winter Paralympics in 1998).
The Paralympics have transformed in the last 57 years. Back in 1964, there were 375 athletes from 21 nations competing in nine sports. This year there will be 4,500 athletes from 162 nations competing in 539 events across 22 sports.
Here are those 22 sports:
Badminton and taekwondo have been introduced this time around, replacing sailing and seven-a-side football.
The organisers have lofty ambitions – and why not.
“When people look back on the Tokyo 2020 Games in 50 or 100 years time, the Games should be seen to have been a catalyst for change in culture, society and values leading to the realisation of a more sustainable, spiritually richer, happier society.”
I’ll be very happy if I can remember anything at all in 100 years, but these events are special. I’ve been thinking about previous ceremonies today and one moment stands out for me. The song Caliban’s Dream, which was played at the opening ceremony to the Olympics in London in 2012. I have listened to it hundreds of times over the last nine years. It’s a stunning piece of work.
I’d love to hear about your memories of previous ceremonies – Olympics or Paralympics, opening or closing. Drop me an email at Paul.Campbell@theguardian.com or tweet me.
Here’s the song:
So, are you ready for another fortnight of great sport?
That’s what we have in store, kicking off with the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games today in Tokyo. Over the next 13 days there will be 1,617 medals awarded across 539 events in 22 sports.
With around 1,500 athletes from 162 nations taking part, it will be worth watching. In fact, the International Paralympic Committee estimate that 4.25 billion people from 177 territories across the world will tune in for some of the action over the next 13 days.
It all starts with the opening ceremony today, which will be based around the theme of “We Have Wings”. The organisers say the idea is to raise awareness of the courage of Paralympians who are trying to spread their wings “no matter which way the wind blows”.
Incidentally, the concept for the closing ceremony on will be “Harmonious Cacophony”, which is about acknowledging diversity among people and transforming their differences into a shared unity.
The jargon doesn’t give that much away so we’ll just have to see what Tokyo has in store for us over the next few hours. The ceremony gets going at 8pm Tokyo time (which is 12pm in London, 9pm in Sydney, 7am in New York and 5pm somewhere).