The Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games got underway at the iconic National Stadium Bird’s Nest amidst much fanfare. Come 10 days, Para athletes from across the globe will be involved in action-packed encounters and be looking to tame the snow for top honours.
Beijing maybe like a city with in a city with that extra layer of closed-loop protection to curb the threat of the novel COVID-19 virus. But, more importantly the Beijing Organising Committee have made sure that inside the cocoon breathes the hope and aspiration of 564 athletes.
These athletes, who have descended on the capital, now have a meticulously planned showpiece event to showcase their grit, determination and can yield the rewards of their years of hard work, sweat and tears.
As the sun went down on the capital and floodlights took centrestage, the radiant Beijing 2022 Winter Games logo took the spotlight. The ceremony got underway with a group of musicians with disabilities from all corners of China making everyone sway to their tunes.
Once the President of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping and President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Andrew Parsons made their way into the arena, the stage transformed into a starry ocean taking everyone present to relive the history of the past 12 Paralympic Winter Games before eventually freezing on '2022 Beijing, China'.
The mascot of this Paralympic Winter Games, Shuey Rhon Rhon, representing friendship, courage, and strength, then skated into the stadium and the whole field transformed into a competitive stage of snow and ice. True to the theme ‘Together for a shared Future’, the Para athletes and officials strode into the stadium as the floor lift up with 'Welcome' displayed in Chinese and English.
It would have also been a huge moment for the representatives of three countries making their dream debut in Beijing - Azerbaijan, Israel and Puerto Rico.
The host nation China understandably got the loudest cheer as they entered arena with the familiar Ode to the Motherland played in the background. But heart of the millions tuning in from across continents would have gone with the Ukrainians for showing their resilience and making it to Beijing when their country is facing challenging times.
Past few weeks there were so much uncertainty surrounding their participation at the Games but thankfully that been put to rest in time. Now all the athletes present here can solely focus on the Games.
IPC President Andrew Parsons speaking his heart out said: “Tonight, I want to begin with a message of peace. As the leader of an organisation with inclusion at its core, where diversity is celebrated and differences embraced, I am horrified at what is taking place in the world right now.
“The 21st Century is a time for dialogue and diplomacy, not war and hate. The Olympic Truce for peace during the Olympic and Paralympic Games is a UN Resolution adopted by consensus by 193 Member States at the 76th UN General Assembly. It must be respected and observed not violated.
"At the IPC we aspire to a better and more inclusive world, free from discrimination, free from hate, free from ignorance and free from conflict. Here in Beijing, Paralympic athletes from 46 different nations will compete with each other, not against each other. Through sport they will showcase the best of humanity and highlight the values that should underpin a peaceful and inclusive world."
To promote an inclusive society, the organisers had made sure that all the performers at the Opening Ceremony were people from all walks of life along with people with disabilities.
The IPC with a video used the occasion to increase the awareness of their pet project the WeThe15 initiative launched ahead of the Tokyo2020 Games, earlier his year, with aims to increase the visibility, accessibility and inclusion of the world’s 1.2 billion persons with disabilities who make up 15 per cent of the global population.
With the Paralympic flame lighting of the Cauldron, Beijing also become the first city in the world to host both the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games. The National Stadium, the Bird's Nest, also wrote a new chapter in the history books by becoming the only sports venue in the world to host the opening ceremonies of the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games.
The skies then lit up with fireworks to herald that the sport and athletes were the ultimate winners and the Games legacy will surely go on. And with that, let’s sit back, enjoy these athletes' true moments of glory and ecstasy.
Let the Games Begin!