June 23, 2021

Paralympics 2016: Opening ceremony

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_91064504_getty_rioRio Paralympics 2016: Opening ceremony sees Brazil president booed

Venue: Rio de Janeiro Dates: 7-18 September Time in Rio: BST -4

Brazilian president Michel Temer was booed as the 2016 Paralympic Games opened in Rio de Janeiro to a backdrop of colour and music.

Thousands of performers were involved either side of the two-hour procession of competing countries at the Maracana.

Competition begins on Thursday, when Great Britain’s Dame Sarah Storey can become the most successful female Paralympian.

The opening ceremony began with American Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham, in a wheelchair, jumping from a massive ramp from the Maracana stands and performing a back flip through a giant ring.

The Brazilian national anthem was played on the piano by Carlos Martin, whose right hand is severely disabled, before the parade of athletes, with the loudest cheer of the night reserved for competitors from the host nation.

Each nation carried a piece of a jigsaw, which bore the name of their country on one side and faces of competing athletes on the other.

Once completed, the jigsaw was adorned by the faces of every competitor at the 2016 Games. All of the faces came together to form a beating heart, which began beating in time to the music.

One of the most striking parts of the ceremony was when bright lights temporarily ‘blinded’ the crowd to try to show spectators the reality Paralympic athletes face, forcing them to rely on other senses such as hearing.

Political figures booed

Rio 2016 organising committee president Carlos Nuzman was booed during his speech, as was President Temer a short while later.

The South American country has been beset by political unrest and, just 24 hours earlier, former Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff left her official residence for the last time following her impeachment and removal from office.

Nuzman did manage to finish his speech, which spoke of building a “new world, more accessible to all and with no obstacles”. Temer’s role was brief as he officially opened the Games and handed over to more performers.

Finally the flame was lit in driving rain and in front of a cheering crowd by influential official Marcia Malsar.

A difficult build-up to the Games


The biggest concern for the Games was around a shortfall in funding, with the struggling Brazilian economy and low ticket sales meaning Rio’s organising committee had not raised enough money to fund the event.

Rio’s mayor Eduardo Paes had to secure an additional £36m of funding and £24m in sponsorship from state-run companies, meaning the Paralympics will go ahead, but with cuts to the workforce and transport services as well as the closure of some media centres.

Rio problems caused ‘hyper-stress’ – IPC president Sir Philip Craven


Ticket sales have improved, with 1.6 million sold of the 2.5 million available, after only 12% had been bought just three weeks ago.

The London 2012 Paralympics sold a record 2.7 million tickets.

Prince Harry has made a donation to the #FillTheSeats initiative, which is working with Paralympics organisers to buy 10,000 tickets for local children.

An athlete from Belarus carried a Russian flag into the opening ceremony before it was confiscated by officials, who are now working to identify the offender

There was also the ongoing saga of whether Russian athletes would be able to compete, after a report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Association found evidence of widespread doping across Russian sport.

Unlike the Olympics, which allowed individual sport federations to decide if Russians could compete at Rio 2016, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has applied a blanket ban, which Russian officials unsuccessfully appealed against.

Athlete classifications

And concerns have been raised about whether the system used to determine the classifications athletes compete in is being manipulated to boost medal chances.

British T37 200m sprinter Bethany Woodward, who has cerebral palsy and will not be competing in Rio, has criticised the British Paralympic Association (BPA), saying “they’ve brought in people who are not like me in terms of disability”.

BPA boss Tim Hollingsworth said no advantage was being sought for Britain’s 264 athletes in Rio.

The IPC says the system is always under review, while UK Athletics said it will look at classifications after Rio, standard practice for the body after every Games.

Who are the big hitters?

China are the Paralympics superpower, having topped the medal table at London 2012 with 231 medals, 95 of which were gold.

Russia came second four years ago, with 36 gold medals, but will not be in Rio because of their ban, giving Great Britain, third in 2012 with 34 golds, a great chance of moving up a place.

Among the global stars in Rio are Brazilian swimmer Daniel Dias, American swimmer Elizabeth Marks, Australia’s Olympic and Paralympic table tennis player Melissa Tapper and the Netherlands’ ‘Blade Babe’ Marlou van Rhijn.
The Brazil flag displayed by performers at the opening ceremony.
Equestrian rider Lee Pearson led out Great Britain and said: “That was one of the most amazing experiences of my entire life. I am a proud Brit and I’m even more proud now after leading the ParalympicsGB athletes out.”

The beating heart at the centre of the Maracana represents one of the core concepts of the Games
Equestrian rider Lee Pearson leads out the ParalympicsGB team at the Rio opening ceremony
An estimated 4,350 athletes from more than 160 countries are set to compete in 528 medal events across 22 sports over the next 11 days of sporting action

For more on this story and video go to: http://www.bbc.com/sport/disability-sport/37298448

Related story:

Belarus official banned from Paralympic Games for Russia flag stunt

From BBC

Russian athletes were banned from competing at the Paralympics after a report revealed a programme of state-sponsored doping

A Belarus official who carried a Russian flag into the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games has been banned from the competition.

The official violated the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) ban on political gestures.

Belarus’ neighbours Russia are banned from the Games following state-sponsored doping.

“A hero has appeared amongst us,” said Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry.

“This is the person who showed solidarity with people who were disgracefully treated in an inhumane way in not being allowed to compete at the Paralympics,” Zakharova told Interfax news agency.

The official, identified by Russian media as Andrei Fomochkin, has had his accreditation for Rio cancelled by the IPC.

“The IPC will be speaking to NPC Belarusto remind them political protests are forbidden at the Paralympic Games,” the IPC said in a statement.

Fomochkin also received support from Belarus for his gesture.

“This was the right thing,” Dmitri Mironchik, press secretary for Belarus’s Foreign Ministry, told RIA Novosti. “If we need to answer for these gestures, then we will answer.”

IMAGE: Reuters

For more on this story go to: http://www.bbc.com/sport/disability-sport/37310337

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