The six-person Refugee Team led the opening ceremony at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics | Photo: Marcus Brandt/dpa/picture-alliance
The six-person Refugee Team led the opening ceremony at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics | Photo: Marcus Brandt/dpa/picture-alliance

The parade of nations at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics opening ceremony was led by members of the refugee team, who received a message of support from Bayern Munich footballer and UN ambassador Alphonso Davies.

Bayern Munich's Canadian defender Alphonso Davies has sent a message of support to the "world's most courageous sports team" – the refugee team – who led the parade of nations at the Paralympic Games opening ceremony in Tokyo on Tuesday. 


Davies comes from a refugee background having been born to Liberian parents in a refugee camp in Ghana where he spent five years before moving to Canada. He has since become a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the 20-year-old said he understood what those who were forced to flee for their own safety or those who faced discrimination went through.

"I've read your stories and learnt about the journeys you have all been through. You are the most courageous sports team in the world right now,” the 20-year-old wrote on social media. "There will be refugees who, through watching you succeed, will believe they can too. And you know what, those people are the next nurses, teachers and scientists. That's change starting with sport."

Tuesday’s opening ceremony took place behind closed doors at the Olympic Stadium amid a strict coronavirus-related hygiene protocol which includes a Paralympic bubble for athletes and officials. 

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Athletes from Afghanistan are not present because flights are suspended following the Taliban regaining power in the country but the national flag, carried by a volunteer, was part of the parade in an act of solidarity.

Some 4,400 athletes from 161 countries plus a refugee team will be competing for more than 500 gold medals in 22 sports over 12 days. While no tickets are sold owing to the pandemic, some 130,000 schoolchildren are to attend the events. "We will put the world's 1.2 million persons with disabilities at the heart of the inclusion agenda. Difference is the strength, it is not the weakness," said International Paralympics Committee (IPC) president, Andrew Parsons.

Author: James Thorogood

First published: August 24, 2021

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