CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — The Paralympics began Tuesday, just two weeks after the Tokyo Olympics. The opening ceremony featured the national flags of the 162 delegations represented, which included the refugee team.
“I cannot believe we are finally here,” International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons said in his opening remarks. “Many doubted this day would happen. Many thought it impossible. But thanks to the efforts of many, the most transformative sport event on earth is about to begin.”
A record 4,403 athletes will compete at the games.
Tokyo is currently under a state of emergency until Sept. 12, with the Paralympics ending Sept. 5.
Tokyo and Paralympic organizers are battling high heat and soaring virus cases. About 40% of the Japanese population is fully vaccinated. New daily cases in Tokyo have increased four to five times since the Olympics opened on July 23.
Organizers also announced Tuesday 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.
This year’s 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.
About 88% of athletes and officials attending the Games have been vaccinated, the International Paralympic Committee spokesperson Craig Spence has said.
“Compared to the Olympics, the COVID infections have spread further now. I have many concerns but I believe that Japan as a host country is making all the efforts so that athletes can compete safely in the Games,” said Tokyo resident Kana Matsuyama, 45.
Among those attending opening ceremony was Douglas Emhoff, husband of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and International Olympic President Thomas Bach.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.