THE 2020 Paralympics began with a stunning behind-closed-doors opening ceremony with fireworks lighting up the Tokyo sky.
Flagbearers Ellie Simmonds and John Stubbs led out Team GB's 219 athletes at the sensational start of the delayed Games.
Swimmer Simmonds and archer Stubbs smiled behind their masks as they waved for the cameras in an almost-empty Olympic stadium populated only by selected dignitaries, volunteers and members of the media.
Japan's Emperor Naruhito and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga were among those present for a day organisers and many athletes feared may never happen.
The long-awaited event took place precisely 364 days later than planned and more than 16 months since being postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It was a circus-like opening with acrobats, clowns, vibrant music and fireworks at the stadium to mark the the start of the long parade of athletes.
The opening ceremony featured the national flags of the 162 delegations represented, which included the refugee team.
In addition, the flag of Afghanistan was carried by a volunteer despite the delegation not being on hand in Tokyo due to the uncertainty following the Taliban takeover.
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The Paralympics are being held without fans, although organizers are planning to let some school children attend, going against the advice of much of the medical community.
International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons and Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the Tokyo organizing committee, say the Paralympics can be held safely.
Both have tried to distance the Paralympics and Olympics from Tokyo's rising coronavirus infection rate.
Organizers also announced the first positive test for an athlete living in the Paralympic Village.
They gave no name or details and said the athlete had been isolated.
Tokyo and Paralympic organizers are under pressure from soaring new infections in the capital.
About 40 per cent of the Japanese population is fully vaccinated. But daily new cases in Tokyo have increased four to five times since the Olympics opened on July 23.
Tokyo is under a state of emergency until September 12, with the Paralympics ending September 5.
There have been 1.2m confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Japan, with 15,681 deaths at the time of writing.
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