The Tokyo Paralympics kicked off on Tuesday with an opening ceremony that was colorful and at times moving. “Paralympians you gave your all to be here,” said IPC President Andrew Parsons. “Blood, sweat and tears. Now is your moment to show the world your skill, your strength, your determination. If the world has ever labeled you, now is your time to be relabeled: champion, hero, friend, colleague, role model or just human.”
The hero for Japan on the first day of the Games was 14-year-old Miyuki Yamada. She picked up a silver in the women’s 100m backstroke S2 class and in doing so became the country’s youngest-ever Paralympic medalist. The nation’s first gold came 24 hours later. Takayuki Suzuki, who won a bronze the previous day, triumphed in the men’s 100m freestyle S4 category. Other medalists for Japan at the time of writing include Uchi Tomita in the pool as well as Karasawa Kenya and Shinya Wada on the track.
In other news this week, a yakuza leader was sentenced to death for four attacks on civilians between 1998 and 2014. Foreign materials have been found in unused vials of Moderna at several vaccination centers in Japan leading to the suspension of around 1.63 million doses. Tepco has unveiled plans to dump tons of treated contaminated water into the ocean via an undersea tunnel. And two people were injured on Tuesday following an acid attack at a Tokyo subway station.
Gold and Bronze for Suzuki, Silvers for Yamada and Tomita
14-year-old para-swimmer Miyuki Yamada won Japan’s first medal at the Paralympics, claiming silver in the women’s 100m backstroke S2 class. The youngest member on Japan’s team for the 2020 Games, she also became her nation’s youngest Paralympian to finish on the podium. She was born without arms and spends most of her time in a wheelchair due to limited mobility in her legs. Yamada was beaten to the gold by Singapore’s Yip Pin Xiu, who defended her crown from Rio.
Japan’s second medal also came in swimming with Takayuki Suzuki securing a bronze in the men’s 50m breaststroke SB3. He then claimed the country’s first Paralympic gold since 2012 as he came from behind to defeat Italy’s Luigi Beggiato in the men’s 100m freestyle S4. The 34-year-old Shizuoka-native, who made his Paralympic debut in 2004, now has seven medals in total. He was born with deficiencies in both his arms and legs.
The fourth medal in the pool for Japan came from Uchu Tomita. He finished behind Rogier Dorsman of the Netherlands in the men’s 400m freestyle S11, a race for swimmers with visual impairments. Tomita was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa when he was in high school, ending his dream of becoming an astronaut. In athletics, Karasawa Kenya and Shinya Wada earned Japan a silver and bronze in the men’s T11 5,000m. The latter is visually impaired while the former lost his vision completely when he was 10.
We Have Wings: Paralympics Off to a Flying Start
364 days later than planned, the opening ceremony for the Paralympics finally took place on Tuesday. Despite having no fans in the stadium, it was still a joyous, vibrant event mixed in with some touching moments. Based around the theme of “We have Wings,” it was set in a “Para Airport,” symbolizing diversity and inclusion. Star of the show was arguably 13-year-old Yui Wago. Performing in a wheelchair, she played the role of a single-winged airplane learning to take flight.
Athletes came out much quicker than they did at the opening ceremony for the Olympics with the refugee team leading the way. They were followed by a Japanese volunteer carrying the flag of Afghanistan in a sign of solidarity with the country’s athletes who were unable to make the trip due to the current turmoil there. The New Zealand flag was also carried by a volunteer. The 66-strong team decided to skip the ceremony due to fears over Covid-19. #Wethe15 was projected across the stadium, representing the rights of 1.2 billion people (15 percent of the global population) with disabilities around the world.
Before the event took place there was an anti-Paralympic protest outside the stadium. A 52-year-old man was arrested for assault after kicking a police officer. On Thursday, it was announced that a foreign Paralympic staff member had been hospitalized with Covid-19. It’s the first time someone involved in the Games has required medical assistance for the virus.
Suspect Remains at Large Following Acid Attack
While the opening ceremony was in full swing, a disturbing crime was taking place relatively nearby at a Tokyo subway station. A man, 22, sustained severe injuries to his face and a woman, 34, suffered from mild burns on her leg after a male suspect threw sulfuric acid.
The incident occurred near an elevator at Shirokane Takanawa Station. The acid was contained in a small bottle and thrown at the male victim after the suspect was overtaken on the right side. The woman then slipped on the liquid. The station, located in a high-end residential area, was sealed off by the police.
The attacker fled the scene and remains at large. Around 175cm tall, he is believed to be in his 40s or 50s. Aside from his white mask, he was dressed all in black, including his cap. The incident came less than three weeks after a random knife attack on the Odakyu line heading through Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward.
Foreign Substances Found in Moderna Vaccine, 1.6 Million Doses Suspended
Around 1.63 million doses of the Moderna vaccine have been withdrawn in Japan due to contamination. Foreign substances were discovered in 39 unused vials from vaccination centers in five prefectures — Gifu, Ibaraki, Aichi, Saitama and Tokyo. According to Japan’s health ministry, the foreign substances are believed to be metallic particles.
The doses were produced in the same production line in Spain. They fall under three lot numbers – 3004667, 3004734 and 3004956. The lots were sent to 863 vaccination centers, all of which have been asked not to use them.
To date, no health issues related to the contaminated doses have been reported. On Thursday, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the suspension of the Moderna doses “will not have a big impact,” on the vaccination rollout. The goal is to have 60 percent of the population fully vaccinated by the end of September.
Water from Fukushima Nuclear Plant to be Dumped into the Ocean Via an Undersea Tunnel
Tokyo Electric Power Co. announced on Wednesday that it will build an undersea tunnel to release more than a million tons of treated, though still radioactive, water from the Fukushima Nuclear Plant into the ocean. The plan is to start discharging it in the spring of 2023.
The tainted water is currently kept in storage tanks at the nuclear complex. Around 1,000 were set up at the site, but the space is fast reaching capacity. In April, the government decided the only way to resolve the problem was by dumping the water in the ocean. Local fishermen fiercely opposed the decision, as did neighboring countries such as China and Korea.
While the filtration process removes most radioactive elements from the water, some remain. That includes tritium, though engineering professor Brent Heuser says this is not dangerous in small amounts. “It’s gonna be very dilute, it’s simply not a concern, the environmental impact is zero,” he told CNBC in April.
Yakuza Boss Sentenced to Death
“I asked you for a fair judgment. But this is not fair at all. You will regret this for the rest of your life.” These were the words of Satoru Nomura as he was sentenced to death at the Fukuoka District Court on August 24. The leader of the yakuza Kuda-kai gang based in Kita-Kyushu was accused of conspiring to carry out four attacks.
A former head of a fishing cooperative was shot and killed while three others were injured by shooting or stabbing. That included a relative of the fisheries boss, a police officer investigating the Kudo-kai and a nurse at a clinic where Nomura was seeking treatment. The four incidents took place over a 16-year period.
While there was no direct evidence linking Nomura to the attacks, prosecutors argued that he was unquestionably responsible as he had complete control over the group. He is believed to be the first senior yakuza member to be sentenced to death. The Fukuoka Prefectural Police have ordered officers to protect judges and witnesses related to the case.