Tokyo Paralympics: Everything you need to know as the Games open

Credit: AP

After a year of delays and anticipation due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 Paralympic Games has finally kicked off in Japan's capital.

Against a backdrop of uncertainty with Tokyo recording surging coronavirus cases and protests ongoing on the ground, the summer games will look very different to previous years.

Much like the Olympics, most fans are banned from watching sporting events inside stadiums, as the city remains in a state of emergency.

Nevertheless, the 10 days of elite sporting events opened with a bang this afternoon as the world's top athletes with disabilities join together and prepare to go for gold.

ITV News Asia Correspondent Debi Edward reports on the opposition around this year's Games:

Who is flying the flag for GB at the Opening Ceremony?

Swimming star Ellie Simmonds OBE and archer John Stubbs MBE - who are set to compete in their fourth Games - represented ParalympicsGB as the flagbearers at the grand ceremony.

The highly anticipated four-hour opening ceremony at the 68,000 capacity Japan National Stadium, which runs from midday to 4pm (UK time) on Tuesday, comes a day before the sporting events begin.

Simmonds is the first woman to fly Britain's flag at the Games since fellow swimmer Maggie McEleny in 2000, while Stubbs is the first archer to do so in recent Paralympic history.

Ellie Simmonds and John Stubbs led ParalympicsGB as the flagbearers Credit: PA

Who are the ParalympicsGB stars to watch?

Following the triumph of the Olympics, which saw Team GB take home an impressive 22 gold medals and match its London 2012 65-medal wins, there is a significant buzz around the ParalympicsGB team.

Cyclist Dame Sarah Storey is hoping to make history in the 3000m individual pursuit on Wednesday by becoming Britain's most successful Paralympian. This will be her eighth Games.

Retaining that title in the Izu Velodrome, as well as successfully defending her C5 time trial and C4-5 road race crowns next week, would move the 43-year-old on to 17 career golds - one more than swimmer Mike Kenny claimed between 1976 and 1988.

Cyclist Dame Sarah Storey was a successful Olympic swimmer before turning her attention to cycling. Credit: PA

Wheelchair racing star Hannah Cockroft, dubbed ‘Hurricane Hannah’, has five golds from two previous Games and is tipped to win again when she competes in the T34 100m and 800m.

Meanwhile, Will Bayley believes he is playing the best table tennis of his career, having recovered from a serious injury suffered while rehearsing for Strictly Come Dancing in 2019.

The 33-year-old has high hopes of defending the class seven title he won five years ago.

Sir Lee Pearson is also hoping to add to his remarkable haul of 11 gold medals gained across five previous Paralympics. The 47-year-old equestrian great will compete on a homebred horse – nine-year-old gelding Breezer – for the first time at a Games.

When will the Games finish and what's new this time?

The Games will run until Sunday 5 September, with an estimated 4,403 athletes from 160 countries expected to take part.

Almost 540 events across 22 sports are scheduled to take place in 21 venues.

A jam-packed schedule of track cycling, swimming and wheelchair fencing are set to dominate the first day, while the Games will welcome para badminton and para taekwondo for the first time ever.

All eyes are firmly on GB's Amy Truesdale, a two-time world champion of para taekwondo, who will make her Paralympic debut.

This year also sees the highest ever number of female athletes to compete since the Games began in 1960, with 1,853 women taking part compared with 2,550 men.

Why have this year's Paralympics received opposition?

Tokyo, which remains in a state of emergency until September 12, has been reporting record Covid cases almost every day amid the spread of the Delta variant.

Many believe the Games should have been postponed for a second time, with daily protests taking place across the capital's streets urging organisers to call them off.

Experts have raised concerns that the Games could become a super spreader event for the more contagious Delta variant, particularly amid a relatively slow vaccine rollout.