The PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games began yesterday with a magnificent Opening Ceremony in which the host's goal to create a world without discrimination was demonstrated through colour, movement, music and dance.
The ceremony opened with a series of powerful drumming performances. A South Korean drummer clad in white welcomed the world by theatrically beating on a giant drum before various other drums synchronised to represent a beating heart. The accompanying traditional welcome dance climaxed, symbolising the connection of humanity across the globe.
Visually impaired singer Sojeong opened the next section of the show by filling the stadium floor with projections of her drawings - visual representations of dreams, hopes and life. A number of children and Bandabi, the PyeongChang Paralympic mascot, then joined in with a dance that included aspects of sign language for those with hearing impairments.
Opening drumming act
Para-boat that symbolises dream and hope
Next came the national anthem of the Republic of Korea and the parade of athletes.
A record 567 athletes from almost 50 countries and regions marched and wheeled into the stadium behind their flag-bearers to the cheers of spectators, including South Korean President Moon Jae-in, International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.
Parade of the athletes #1
Parade of the athletes #2
PyeongChang 2018 Organising Committee CEO and President Lee Hee-beom then welcomed the athletes to the Paralympics.
“Having recognised how much you para-athletes, have sweated and shed tears coming all the way to PyeongChang, we all know that every one of you is already a champion as well as a hero,” he said.
“It is my ardent wish that PyeongChang 2018 will be truly blessed with you in a Paralympic spirit of courage, determination, inspiration, and equality.”
IPC President Parsons echoed the sentiment, saying he hopes that the Paralympic athletes can complete their journey successfully in the Republic of Korea.
“The journey of an athlete starts with a dream: the dream of competing in sport; of representing your country; of winning a medal and writing your name into history,” he said.
“From tomorrow, Paralympic athletes will turn their dreams into reality. They will perform feats that some might not even dare to dream about. Speed, skill, strength, endurance and intelligence. Tremendous abilities that will at first surprise you, but ultimately will inspire and excite you.”
IPC president Parsons gives speech
PyeongChang Paralympic mascot Bandabi enters the stadium
The ceremony then moved on to a spectacular light show. Spirals were projected across the Olympic Stadium, representing the enormous energy needed to overcome life's obstacles. When the spirals made by performers merged into one giant circle, the energy condensed to a “Sphere of Coexistence” to further highlight the Games' aim to spread harmony and equality.
Para-curling athlete Seo Soon-seok and the hugely popular skip of Republic of Korea's silver medal-winning PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games curling team, Kim Eun-jung, were the final torchbearers. The pair lit the cauldron together to mark the start of the Games.
Lighting of the cauldron by final torchbearers
The Paralympic flame burns in the cauldron