‘We’re no different to anyone else’ : Paralympics Rio opening ceremony sends great message

Last night, Rio threw its arms wide open again at the Maracanã in front of a raucous, mostly Brazilian, sell-out crowd eager to herald the 15th summer Paralympics.

Superhuman endeavour, trials, tribulations and a steady dose of controversy. Just 19 days have passed since the tickertape was swept away on an Olympic Games which transfixed a global audience of billions.

Carrying the motto Um mundo novo – “a new world” – Rio 2016 will see 173 nations – and 4,300 athletes – take to the tracks, fields, courts and pitches just over half-a-century since Dr Ludwig Guttmann spawned a modest in-house contest at Stoke Mandeville Hospital for patients with spinal injuries.

A nod to the past came almost immediately with Sir Philip Craven, the president of the International Paralympic Committee, packing his bags for Brazil; suitably equipped for his travels with yellow sandals and inflatable armbands during a modest, but no less touching, opening montage chronicling the wheelchair basketball icon’s not so arduous commute to Rio.

paralympics4

A man in a wheelchair soared down a six-storey-high ramp at high speed as fireworks lit the sky over Rio’s Maracana Stadium.

Just like that, Brazil welcomed the world to the first Paralympics in South America in adrenaline-charged fashion, and Australia’s team flag bearer, Brad Ness, expected nothing less.

American extreme wheelchair athlete Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham flew down the 17-metre ramp and somersaulted through the air in a display aimed at shaking preconceived ideas about disability, as the Games also aim to do.

“It sends the message that we’re no different to anyone else out there,” said Ness.

“Anything’s possible, you’ve got no limitations. You’ve got to think outside the box but you can make it happen.”

Ness, a five-time Paralympian and captain of the men’s wheelchair basketball team carried the flag for Australia in the opening ceremony on Thursday (AEST).

_91064353_herp_brazil_athletes_getty

This was the Paralympic movement flexing its muscle with an opening ceremony, the brainchild of Flavio Machado, laden with all the colour and warmth which made the XXXI Olympiad such an emphatic show of defiance from a nation crippled by existential crisis. Extreme wheelchair extraordinaire Aaron Fotheringham’s arrival was rather more theatrical, gliding down a 100ft water slide before flipping across the Rio night sky on his chair with fireworks bursting from every angle of the gargantuan Maracanã roof.

On an evening which brought news of Formula One’s imminent multi-billion pound sale to an American media giant, the purple haze emitted from Castelo Branco should act as a reminder that not all sport is stymied by a financial straightjacket. Commissioned by Mayor Ângelo Mendes de Morais to accommodate the 1950 football World Cup, this iconic coliseum has seldom witnessed such a unique spectacle of unbridled charm as this. Um mundo novo indeed.

His contingent of 90 or so rowdy athletes and officials soaked in every moment in a lap around the stadium, with looming early competition ruling out half of Australia’s team from marching.

ebwmbfk4

Ness was without his Rollers teammates ahead of their opening match against the Netherlands on day one of competition.

“All the boys are back home, probably tucked up already,” he said.

“Hopefully we can make you proud in the next two weeks.”

The four-hour extravaganza was low-tech in comparison to London and Beijing and had a fraction of the budget, but no-less delighted the 50,000-strong crowd.

Blinding light, a blackout and 400 illuminated canes combined to simulate the sensory experience of the vision-impaired.

An homage to the invention of the wheel doubled as the Samba circle, a Brazilian musical icon.

A deconstruction of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man shattered ideals of physical perfection.

peacocklondon-large_transmdh6xrjnimbuejj9tv0x6umrrd_tvi4z5jn9jbofs34

And there was a Samba-inspired dancing display between a giant robotic arm and American Paralympian snowboarder Amy Purdy, highlighting how technology helps people with disabilities move, compete, and groove.

It all followed a tribute to Rio’s beautiful beaches, mountainous landscapes and the joyful Cariocas – those who live in the Marvellous City.

This was the Paralympics movement flexing its muscle with an opening ceremony, the brainchild of Flavio Machado, laden with all the colour and warmth which made the XXXI Olympiad such an emphatic show of defiance from a nation crippled by existential crisis. Extreme wheelchair extraordinaire Aaron Fotheringham’s arrival was rather more theatrical, gliding down a 100ft water slide before flipping across the Rio night sky on his chair with fireworks bursting from every angle of the gargantuan Maracanã roof.

weir-322224

On an evening which brought news of Formula One’s imminent multi-billion pound sale to an American media giant, the purple haze emitted from Castelo Branco should act as a reminder that not all sport is stymied by a financial straightjacket. Commissioned by Mayor Ângelo Mendes de Morais to accommodate the 1950 football World Cup, this iconic coliseum has seldom witnessed such a unique spectacle of unbridled charm as this. Um mundo novo indeed.

Brazilian Paralympics Marcia Malsar fell while carrying the Olympic torch as rain began to pour, and recovered to a standing ovation before swimming legend Clodoaldo Silva scaled four ramps in his wheelchair to light the flame.

The ceremony heralded the start of the 11-day event in which athletes from 159 countries, plus two “independent” refugee athletes from Syria and Iran, will compete for 528 gold medals over 23 Paralympic sports.

paralympics3

More than 4400 athletes will contest the Paralympics  Games, although none from Russia, after the country was slapped with a blanket ban for state-sponsored doping.

Resounding boos greeted Brazil’s unelected acting president Michel Temer when he opened the Games, throwing the spotlight on a country battered by recession and political scandal.However a late surge in ticket sales to 1.7 million suggest Brazilians are now getting behind the cash-strapped event, making Rio the second best-attended Paralympics behind London 2012.As Rio 2016 Olympic organising committee president Carlos Arthur Nuzman told the crowd: “When everyone else disbelieves, we Brazilians grow.”

Related News  Allison Jones Selected As U.S. Flag Bearer For Rio 2016 Paralympic Games

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *