Opening and Closing Ceremonies of Tokyo 1964 Paralympic Games

Under the banner of ‘The World United in One’, Tokyo 1964 opened under the watchful eyes of the Crown Prince and Princess Michiko, the Japanese Minister of Welfare, the Governor of Tokyo and the founding father of the Paralympic Movement, Sir Ludwig Guttmann. The gathered dignitaries watched the athletes’ parade, lead into the Oda Field within the Olympic Village by Japanese Marching Girls. The youngsters carried drums on which they sounded-out a beat for the leaders of the procession. Charlie Atkinson, accompanied by a British ex-guardsmen and two Japanese athletes, marched whilst carrying the banner of the Stoke Mandeville Games. Hundreds of people watched as speeches were delivered by the Crown Prince and other representatives. Guttmann made a gesture of the gratitude of the Paralympic Movement by presenting medals to the Crown Prince, the Minister of Welfare, the Governor of Tokyo and Mr. Kasai, Chairperson of the Organising Committee. In his speech, Guttmann said “I hope most sincerely that the 1964 International Stoke Mandeville Games […] will go down in history as another milestone in the development of sport for the disabled and one of humanity’s finest achievements.” The oath was taken by a Japanese athlete who pledged his commitment to the three ideals of the Games - friendship, unity and sportsmanship. Marking the climax of the Opening Ceremony, hundreds of doves were released into the autumn sky to symbolise peace and the freedom and beauty of movement. Finally, the teams were greeted and inspected by the Crown Prince and Princess accompanied by Guttmann and Mr. Kasai, before members of the national Self Defence Force performed a colourful display of fencing. Holding up a mirror to the past The Closing Ceremony of Tokyo 1964 was held in the great indoor gymnasium, again under the patronage of the Crown Prince and Princess. The venue was packed with a capacity crowd of 5,000, with many having to stand just to catch a glimpse of the ceremony. The athletes and teams, dressed in their official uniforms, were escorted by the same Japanese Defence Force, this time bearing the national flag of each country. The Crown Princess presented a variety of trophies and was followed by speeches by Guttmann, a representative of the Prime Minister of Japan, the Minister of Health and the Governor of Tokyo. Everybody present collectively sang Auld Lang Syne and as the sound of thousands of people joining together rang-out, the atmosphere was unforgettable and truly celebratory. In a mark of the gravity and impact of the Games, young Japanese students and children clamoured to catch the hats of the athletes and participants who were moved to toss them into the gathering crowds. “Not much of a Closing Ceremony,” remembered Walton. “But in my experience, most closings seem to be a party, which that one was as well, but no real Closing Ceremony.”