Paralympics 2010: Games of courage begin
By Craig McCulloch
VANCOUVER – The Paralympic Winter Games are officially underway in Vancouver, less than two weeks after the conclusion of the Winter Olympics.
Executive Produced by Vancouver based Patrick Roberge, the 4.2 million dollar ceremony was two-and-a-half hours full of colour, dance, song with a touch of Canadian nationalism.
Over five thousand performers made their way across the expansive stage which covered the floor of BC Place Stadium in a setup almost identical to the opening and closing Olympic ceremonies.
The sold out crowd of 60-thousand was one of the largest for the start of any Paralympics. Like the opening of the Olympics a month to the day before, it was also the first time such a ceremony was held indoors. Spectators donned coloured plastic ponchos which made the audience resemble the Vancouver Paralympic logo. Gold flash cards and white pompoms with orange lights were also given out and used by the crowd.
The show started with a lone trumpeter playing for the crowd before being joined by the Naden Band from CFB Esquimalt and 150 young musicians.
A team of DJs kept the audience moving and the atmosphere festive as the parade of athletes from over forty countries made their way across the stage to their seats.
Montreal based Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli then made his way to centre stage, where only using his upper body strength started to breakdance. More performers followed and then led the audience in what the show’s producers hope will be certified as the largest flash mob in history.
In a further nod to Canada’s two official languages, Montreal singer Martin Deschamps, born with deformities on all four limbs, rode out on his Harley Davidson Motorbike before starting a choreographed number. Toronto rocker Fefe Dobson, was joined by extreme bike and wheelchair athletes who performed tricks on a stylized skateboard park.
John Furlong, CEO of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games told the crowd, “These Games will inspire greatness. What you see over the next nine days will leave an impression on your lives forever.”
In his subsequent address from centre stage, Sir Philip Craven, President of the International Paralympic Committee addressed the athletes by saying, “It is you who redefine the possible. You succeed by focusing your minds, driving your bodies and achieving what many would consider the impossible.”
Tributes were paid to Rick Hansen, who started his “Man in Motion” tour to wheel around the world twenty-five years ago this month.
After Hansen’s speech, CTV News Anchor Lloyd Robertson addressed the crowd, starting a rousing tribute to Terry Fox and his Marathon of Hope.
Terry’s parents then brought the Paralympic Torch into the stadium. They started a circle of hand held torches to be lit. The final torch emerged in the hands of 15 year-old Zach Beaumont of Delta, who lit the single cauldron in the centre of the stadium. The main outdoor cauldron, also left over from the Olympics, was simultaneously re-lit on Vancouver’s waterfront.
Over 13-hundred athletes, coaches and officials will compete for medals in five sports; curling, sledge hockey, biathlon, alpine and cross country skiing in both Vancouver and the nearby ski resort of Whistler.
The games will formally end with a closing ceremony in Whistler on Sunday, March the 21st.
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