“To watch him climb a rope from the stadium floor to the roof, with a broken finger rubbing on the rope, and with a flame on his chair, was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen"
It is exactly 10 years since Chinese Paralympic champion Hou Bin created one of the most spectacular scenes in Paralympic Games history. As we celebrate a decade since the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Paralympics on 6 September, we remember a moment that inspired the world.
Bin was the athlete tasked with lighting the cauldron to begin the Games in Beijing. The way he did it left the whole world – and the crowd of 90,000 spectators inside the immense Bird’s Nest stadium – in awe. It showcased to the world the ability of Paralympians to push their bodies to the absolute limit.
With the Paralympic torch fixed to his wheelchair, Bin used his bare hands to haul himself and his wheelchair 39 metres into the air and light the cauldron on the stadium’s roof.
It was a breath-taking sight, and one the Paralympic Movement – and the global audience watching on television – would never forget. The symbolic moment marked the start of a Games that would change Chinese society forever.
Cheered on by a crowd who could not believe what they were seeing, Bin took over three-and-a-half minutes to climb the rope to the roof.
By the time he reached the summit, he was exhausted.
He took a deep breath, composed himself, and then lit the cauldron to a thunderous roar from the enormous crowd.
The Chinese high jumper had won Paralympic titles at three consecutive Games from Atlanta 1996 through to Athens 2004.
But Bin’s achievement on 6 September 2008 was even more remarkable than it first appeared; he completed the climb with a broken finger, suffered days earlier during a rehearsal.
That very moment epitomised all four of the Paralympic values of courage, determination, equality and inspiration.
It concluded a sensational ceremony that drew on the themes of sky, earth and humans, and aimed to showcase to the world the Paralympic spirit and Chinese culture. The colourful and memorable production involved over 4,800 performers, 850 of which had an impairment.
Sir Philip Craven, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President at the time, said: “To watch him climb a rope from the stadium floor to the roof, with a broken finger rubbing on the rope, and with a flame on his chair, was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. That was the Paralympic spirit in action.”