Tokyo Paralympic Games are declared open by Emperor Naruhito
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Tokyo Paralympic Games are declared open by Emperor Naruhito

Credit: Belga

Emperor Naruhito of Japan declared the 16th edition of the Paralympics officially open at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium on Tuesday.

Leading Belgium’s delegation were the equestrian Michèle George – a triple paralympic champion – and Bruno Vanhove – an attacker in the goalball team. The joint flagbearers lead a team of 17 Belgian athletes alongside 14 accompanying team members.

A total of 32 athletes will be representing Belgium at the Games over the next two weeks, although not all could attend the opening ceremony. The Belgian Paralympic Committee hopes that the team will secure ten medals over the course of the games – one less than at Rio de Janeiro, which were called “exceptional Games” for Belgian athletes.

A total of 4,400 athletes will compete in 539 events across 22 sports. As Covid cases rise in Japan, the games are due to take place entirely behind closed doors with a few exceptions being made for school children.

The first event in which Belgium will be represented is table tennis, with athletes Laurens Devos, Florian Van Acker (both paralympic champions from Rio), and Bart Brands playing their first group matches on Wednesday.

The Brussels Times