Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, September 7, 2016―The 2016 Summer Paralympic Games kicked off with an opening ceremony at Maracana Stadium, which is located in the center of Rio de Janeiro.
The ceremony began with an introductory video, which showcased various regions in Brazil. International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Chairman Sir Philip Craven appeared in the video. The crowd began the opening ceremony countdown in tandem with the scene where Chairman Craven arrives at the stadium. Huge numbers lit up on the stadium's video board as the crowd counted down in a carnival atmosphere. As the countdown reached zero, Wheelchair rider Aaron Wheelz Fotheringham soared down a steep ramp set up at the edge of the stadium. I a spectacular feat, Fotheringham glided down the giant ramp at a high speed and performed an amazing jump through a giant ring and did a back flip before landing in a giant airbag. At that moment, a colorful array of fireworks erupted filling the stadium with waves of excitement.
On the main stage, a live musical performance took place. The motif of the performance was the wheel of a wheelchair decked out in red and white. A beach scene was created using special effects, turning the main stage into a beach, like those in Brazil, and creating a tropical atmosphere. Several hundred performers dressed in brightly colored costumes, some carrying multicolored parasols and others with drums, danced on stage.
Athletes from 159 countries and regions, and an international refugee team are participating in the Rio games. Yui Kamiji, a wheelchair tennis player, was the flag-bearer for the Japanese team, which wore white uniforms. The Japanese athletes marched into the stadium with smiles. Cheered on by spectators, athletes from participating countries and regions, plus the refugee team enjoyed the festive atmosphere, waving to the crowd and holding up the flag of their country.
The placards with the name of athletes' countries were in the shape of jigsaw puzzle pieces. Once they entered the arena, a member from each country placed their piece of the puzzle on stage, putting the pieces of the puzzle together. Once all the countries entered the stadium, the host country team from Brazil entered the stadium and put in the last piece of the puzzle. On stage, a red light illuminated a heart, which emitted a heartbeat, to the surprise of the audience. An infinite number of living things, including plants and animals, surrounded the heart. Red fireworks lit up the sky, accompanied by the loud cheers of spectators.
The official slogan of the Rio Paralympics was A New World. The ceremony's producer aims to launch a fresh way of looking at disability and show that the heart knows no limits. The second half of the opening ceremony offered performances containing different messages and various attention-grabbers. A performance in the image of an eye was performed using white canes and a pair of blind dancers presented a dance that expressed the wavering air and senses. There was also an outstanding performance that fascinated the audience. The performance expressed the possibilities of different sensations, including a visual fantasy displayed with a human kaleidoscope made up of geometric shapes and lights.
In the ceremony finale, the entire stage was transformed into an ocean and the athletes represented sails. The athletes bravely navigated their way through nature, land, and water. The show closed with each sail transforming into one of the three Agitos, the symbol of the Rio Paralympic Games. Red, blue, and green fireworks shot, representing the colors of the Agitos, shot into the sky, drawing a roar from the crowd.
At the Paralympic cauldron lighting ceremony, when torch bearer Paralympic swimmer Clodoaldo Silva arrived at the stairs in his wheelchair, to the surprise of the audience, the stairs opened to reveal a barrier-free slope, a new road. Despite the rain, Mr. Silva made it up the slope in his wheelchair and lit the Paralympic cauldron, bringing the event to a climax and inciting a roar from the crowd.
This was an exhilarating ceremony fitting for the opening of the Rio Paralympics, whose concept is A New World. Expectations for the Rio Paralympic Games which are about to start were raised by the ceremony and performances.