The Opening Ceremony for the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games was held on September 6, 2008 in the Beijing National Stadium in front of more than 90,000 spectators, officially beginning at 20:00 local time. It had two themes, with one, “One World, One Dream” giving more of an overarching thematic approach, the other one, “Transcendence, Integration, Equality” focussing more on the sentiments and ideas communicated by the event.
Before the opening ceremony was held, a pre-ceremony was performed on the Small Stage. It consisted of various musical pieces from a multicultural background, encompassing military music, folk and contemporary music as well as classic Chinese opera pieces, but also a rendition of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and music written specifically for the 2008 Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The official ceremony began with IPC President Sir Philip Craven and Chinese president Hu Jintao entering the stadium. As a clock counted down from 23 to 1, visuals of Arabic numerals and depictions of ethnic minorities, as well as highlights from past Paralympic Games were shown on a screen. After the countdown, fireworks were launched and the Opening Ceremony officially commenced. The Chinese national anthem was performed by the military band of the Chinese Army and actors dressed as cartoon versions of athletes wearing suits in different colours formed the symbol of the Paralympic Games.
After the opening, the Parade of Nations was held. Of interest with this parade is the fact that the national teams were not ordered alphabetically according to Latin letters, as would be the standard procedure. Instead, with Simplified Chinese having a writing system based on characters instead of letters, the order was determined by the number of strokes needed to write the first character of the nation the team was representing. This made Guinea the first team to walk out into the Beijing National Stadium, leading the Parade of Nations. A total of 148 nations took part in the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, with each of these nations being symbolized with a feather, forming a single feather above the stadium.
Following the Parade of Nations was the artistic section of the opening ceremony. Building on the bird motif used to symbolize the nations participating, bird sounds were played through the stadium. A Sunbird, a form of nightingale indigenous to China, was used to tell the story that dreams do exist in life, picking up the theme of “One world, one dream”. Accompanied by the Sunbird, visually impaired Singer Yang Haitao sang the song “Heaven”, afterwards stating her dream. Ringed by 300 hearing-impaired girls communicating in sign language and forming circular symbols, fireworks were lit.
After a dance performance centered on a young girl in a wheelchair who lost her leg in the Sichuan Earthquake, visually impaired pianist Jin Yuanhui played themes to accompany the four seasons thematics of this part of the sequence. Robots imitating animals took the stage, taking the form of cows, frogs, seagulls and ducks, with the audience imitating the sounds of the animals as the robots change form. Fireworks are lit again and Fu Niu Lele, the mascot for the Games is revealed.
As a finale of the artistic section, a male and female duet walked on the centre stage. The woman was pushing a perambulator. Dancers were lowered onto the stage and 750 performers form animals with their hands that appear as shadows before a blue backdrop.
After a performance of “Flying with the Dream” by Han Hong and Andy Lau, the Paralympic flag was raised and oaths were taken by the officials and athletes. Through a series of six torch bearers, the Paralympic torch is handed to Hou Bin, an active Paralympian, who ignites the Paralympic flame. To finish the Beijing Paralympics Opening Ceremony, fireworks were launched again.