Athletes from around the world wound their way through Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, wearing masks and waving to a largely empty stadium, accompanied by performers and upbeat music.
NBCSN will rebroadcast the ceremony Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET.
The “Parade of Athletes” was lead by the Refugee Paralympic Team, a six-member delegation that organizers say represents “the more than 82 million people around the world who have been forced to flee war, persecution, and human rights abuses, 12 million of whom live with a disability.”
The teams range in size from a single athlete to more than 250 competitors.
A total of 4,403 athletes are taking part in the international competition getting underway Tuesday, according to the organizing committee for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
That bests the previous record for athletes competing in the Paralympics of 4,328 set in Rio in 2016.
Among those competing in the Tokyo Paralympic Games, 1,853 are women, another record. Previously, Rio 2016 had the most female athletes with 1,671.
Team USA was one of the last to enter the stadium because it is hosting the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. The 240 U.S athletes include 21 with military affiliations (three of whom are active duty). The flag-bearers are Melissa Stockwell, a veteran and a Parlympic bronze-medalist; and Chuck Aoki, a two-time Paralympic medalist and member of the Athletes’ Advisory Council. Read more about them here.
Afghanistan’s Paralympic team is unable to compete since the Taliban took control of the country and airports have been slammed with people frantically trying to flee. In a show of solidarity, a representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees carried the Afghanistan flag during the parade.
The opening ceremony included a performance that served as an ode to movement, even in the face of headwinds. The story featured a one-winged plane, played by 13-year-old Wago Yui, who doesn’t think she can fly but is shown by other characters that she can symbolically fly.
NBC said many of the performers had never acted before, including the central character.
Reporting for this story originally appeared in the Morning Edition liveblog.