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The Paralympics Are Getting A Higher Profile And Have More Athletes Than Ever

The flags of the participating nations are displayed in the parade of athletes during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games on Tuesday.
The flags of the participating nations are displayed in the parade of athletes during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games on Tuesday.

The Tokyo Paralympic Games are going to be more visible and have more participants than ever before, even in the face of the pandemic.

Here's a look at the records and other "firsts" happening in this year's Games, which officially opened on Tuesday and run through Sept. 5.

The Games will be in prime time

For the first time, the opening ceremony and events are running in a prime-time slot on network television. This year's Games are carried by NBC.

NBC is set to air more than 1,200 hours of programming across its TV and digital channels in the days ahead (compared with some 70 hours of total coverage during the 2016 Rio Games, The Associated Press reports).

To learn more about why it has taken so long and what to expect this year, check out this conversation about Paralympics coverage on 1A from NPR and WAMU.

Two new sports kick off

Peruvian Para badminton player Pedro Pablo de Vinatea trains in Lima in June 2020.
Raul Sifuentes / Getty Images
Peruvian Para badminton player Pedro Pablo de Vinatea trains in Lima in June 2020.

Two of the 22 summer sports sanctioned by the International Paralympic Committee are new to the Games: badminton and taekwondo.

Although the IPC announced that badminton would become an official sport in 2015, it is just now making its debut.

Taekwondo will be the first full-contact Paralympic sport ever.

Read more about the rules for badminton and taekwondo.

More women will compete than ever

There are 4,403 athletes taking part in the international competition, according to the organizing committee for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

That bests the previous record for athletes competing in the Paralympics (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.

LGBTQ representation is growing

At least 28 publicly out Paralympians will compete in the Summer Games in Tokyo, more than double the number that took part in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, according to Outsports.

The athletes on the list come from at least eight countries and are mostly women. The only man on the list is Lee Pearson, an equestrian from Great Britain.

There are also "at least three non-binary or neutral athletes" participating in the Games, according to the site.

Medalists will be getting more money

For the first time, Paralympians who win medals in Tokyo will earn the same as Olympians in Tokyo, thanks to a 2018 decision by the U.S. Olympic Committee board.

The move gave Paralympic athletes a 400% increase for each medal win, finally putting them at parity with U.S. Olympians.


Reporting for this story originally appeared in the Morning Edition liveblog.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.