Paralympic Games
7-18 September

Colourful and joyous – Rio knows how to put on a show

The Maracana stadium hosted a spectacular Opening Ceremony for the Paralympics on Wednesday (September 8). 07 Sep 2016
Fireworks explode during the Opening Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games at Maracana Stadium

Fireworks explode during the Opening Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games at Maracana Stadium

ⒸGetty Images
By Ros Dumlao | For the IPC

"Needless to say, the Opening Ceremony was simple and beautiful, stunning and innovative, and full of life."

A pathway bridge stretches over a busy street, and swerves toward the entrance to the Maracana Stadium. On the bridge is a sea of people, lined up, making their way toward the Rio 2016 Paralympic Opening Ceremony.

As the lights dimmed inside the stadium, and a video of IPC President Sir Philip Craven began playing, that bridge was still flooded with people – donning bold yellow and green shirts, the colours of Brazil.

There were plenty more bold colours inside the stadium where thousands of locals were among the spectators.

“There are more Brazilians here,” said Marilia Da Rosa, who said the ticket prices were more affordable for the Brazilian market than for the Olympics Opening Ceremony.

She attended the Ceremony with boyfriend Philipe Pashoalino, who added: “It’s more familiar to us.”

Inside the stadium, it felt like non-locals were crashing a party in Brazil. But they still received a warm and rhythmic welcome.

The atmosphere seemed familiar for a lot of Latin Americans inside the stadium. The arrival of the teams from Argentina, Chile, Cuba and Colombia drew some of the loudest cheers from the crowd. The Colombian delegation even orchestrated their own dance routine as they marched, waving sombreros that were part of their kits.

The first Independent Paralympic Athletics team – comprised of two athletes from Syria and Iran – also received a joyful reception from the crowd when IPC President Sir Philip Craven welcomed them in his opening speech.

A group of musicians of various ages – the youngest a smiling seven-year-old percussionist – formed a circle in the middle of the stadium floor, playing soothing samba music. It was perhaps the perfect recipe to calm the adrenaline that followed when Aaron Wheelz – an extreme wheelchair athlete from the US – rolled down a mega ramp right through the middle of a mega zero that concluded the Opening Ceremony countdown.

Yes, someone rolled down a ramp from a height equivalent to a six-storey building on a wheelchair.

And that was just the beginning of the next 11 days of sporting action to come during these Games, where Para athletes will defy what many consider impossible.

One of those is Brazil’s most well-known Paralympian Daniel Dias, who was projected swimming on what is usually the Maracana pitch. He left a trail of playful ripples behind him which eventually formed a party on Copacabana Beach.

With paper bras spinning on umbrellas also made of paper, and performers enjoying paper pineapples on the beach – the sun felt like it was shining that Wednesday evening.

Then enter those who will defy expectations: about 4,350 of the Para athletes across 160 teams whose faces were printed on a giant puzzle piece.

As expected, the Brazilian crowd were not shy to get up, cheer and dance for their own as the music turned up with an infusion of different samba tunes.

As Brazil finished their march, the final piece of the puzzle was laid and the picture was complete: a human heart.

Suddenly the Ceremony’s motto "for the heart there are no limits” made sense.

The jigsaw puzzle – formed of people from various impairments from around the world – all have come together to do something extraordinary in these upcoming days.

As the image of the heart starts beating, and visual effects from the projection helped enhance the feeling.

There was also modern artistic effects incorporated that introduced to the crowd even more what the Paralympic Games are about – extraordinary athletic performances.

Suddenly, the stage went from vibrant colours to black and white. People dressed in black came on carrying blind sticks, and large panels of all the 22 Paralympic sport pictograms also came on the stage. Such still images then began to move.

US snowboarder and double-amputee Amy Purdy performed a samba solo on her prosthetists which turned into running blades, and the crowd began to cheer on her performance.

Needless to say, the Opening Ceremony was simple and beautiful, stunning and innovative, and full of life.