The Tokyo 2020 Paralympics kicked off today in the Olympic Stadium in Japan and will run through Sunday, Sept. 5.
This year's 16th Summer Paralympics will feature more than 4,400 athletes from 162 national and refugee teams.
Key entrances in the opening ceremony included The Refugee Paralympic Team who were the first to enter the stadium and also led the parade of nations, making history as the first time an official refugee team has entered the Paralympic Games. Afghanistan also made an impact and had their flag incorporated despite its two athletes withdrawing due to canceled flights out of the country.
Triathlete Melissa Stockwell and rugby player Chuck Aoki led the United States Paralympic team and served as flagbearers during the ceremony.
Although the games should be a celebration, Tokyo is overshadowed by the worsening COVID-19 outbreak. The city, and much of Japan, is still under a state of emergency due to the outbreak.
New Zealand’s Paralympic team missed the opening ceremony due to fears over COVID-19 and its flag did not feature in the parade of nations. Protestors also gathered outside the stadium to vouch for Japan's safety, saying that the organizers should have postponed the games a second time due to the record spike in COVID-19 cases.
Paralympians must follow strict rules and undergo regular testing, just as the Olympians recently did. At least 16 athletes and people associated with the Paralympics have tested positive for the coronavirus and the first athlete inside the Paralympic village tested positive on Tuesday and has been taken to an isolation facility to quarantine.
Orlando native athletes to keep an eye out for in the games include MeiMei White in swimming and Luis Puertas in track and field. Kyle Coon, a UCF alumni, will also be competing in the triathlon.