Mohamed Al Hammadi, the multiple medal-winning Paralympian, was the UAE flag-bearer at the Tokyo Paralympics opening ceremony on Tuesday evening as the largest Games in history officially got under way.
Al Hammadi has won three Paralympic medals, including gold in the 800m wheelchair T34 at Rio 2016 having claimed silver and bronze at London 2012 in the 200m and 100m respectively. He is again expected to be a major contender in Tokyo.
The Emirati led a 12-member squad of UAE athletes plus staff at the opening ceremony inside Tokyo's Olympic Stadium, among them powerlifting great Mohammed Khalaf Khamis, who has won two Paralympic golds and one silver. There were no spectators inside the stadium, aside from a few officials, dignitaries, and sponsors.
A total of 4,403 athletes will compete in Tokyo, making it the largest Paralympic Games in history. Like the Olympics which preceded it, the Paralympics were delayed by 12 months because of the pandemic.
"I cannot believe we are finally here. 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," ICC president Thomas Bach said.
"Over the next 10 years, WeThe15 will challenge how the world’s 15 per cent with disabilities are perceived and treated at a global level.
"With the support of 20 international organisations, civil society, the business sector, and the media we will put the world’s 1.2 billion persons with disabilities firmly at the heart of the inclusion agenda.
"The Paralympic Games are for sure a platform for change. But only every four years is not enough. It is up to each and every one of us to play out part, every day, to make for a more inclusive society in our countries, in our cities, in our communities."