“It was such a big victory for me because I could show the world that disabled people are the same as any others."
With an outstanding Opening Ceremony held at a packed Maracana stadium, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, welcomed Latin America’s first Paralympic Games.
It was officially opened by Brazil’s President Michel Temer and based around the theme “The heart has no limits. Everybody has a heart,” taking the audience on a journey to celebrate the origins of Paralympic sport in Stoke Mandeville, Great Britain, and Brazilians’ love for dance, music, sport and the beach.
The Ceremony’s most memorable moments enter at No. 12 in the International Paralympic Committee’s Top 50 Moments of 2016.
Extreme wheelchair athlete Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham travelled at high speed down a 17-metre-high ramp before jumping through a panel featuring the number zero to end the countdown to the start of the Ceremony.
Ibrahim Al-Hussein, the flag bearer for the International Paralympic Athletes’ (IPA) Team, led the parade of athletes, during which volunteers pieced together a giant jigsaw puzzle made up of 1,160 pieces which formed a picture featuring 6,315 photos of those taking part.
The Brazilian delegation was the last one to parade in front of a home crowd that never stopped cheering for the athletes.
US Paralympic snowboarder Amy Purdy got her turn in the spotlight with a charming bionic samba routine with an industrial robot called Kuka as dancing partner, in a segment which explored man’s coexistence with technology.
Ten children from AACD, an association that offers support for children with impairments, carried the Paralympic flag into the field.
The final stage of the flame’s journey was not immune to the emotions as Brazilian former Paralympic track and field athlete Marcia Malsar fell to the ground whilst carrying the torch under a pouring rain.
But she stood up quickly, finished her leg of the relay and received a long ovation from the crowd.
“I was heading to the changing rooms when I saw people crying. At the beginning, I did not understand why, but then I realised that what happened at the Maracana that day was nice, a proof of self-improvement,” she said.
“Life has these kind of things. It is my belief that what happened during the Opening Ceremony was God’s will.”
The highlight of the evening was the lighting of the cauldron by Brazilian swimming legend Clodoaldo Silva. The six-time Paralympic champion arrived at the stairs, which turned into a ramp to allow him go up and light the cauldron.
“I was so proud to be the protagonist of the most important and awaited moment of the whole celebration," he said.
“From my poor childhood in Natal, I made it into the Maracana. It was such a big victory for me because I could show the world that disabled people are the same as any others."
To find out more about the IPC’s Top 50 Moments of 2016, visit the dedicated page on the IPC’s website.