Paralympic Games get underway with sensational Opening Ceremony

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The largest ever Winter Paralympics got off to a magical start with a wonder of light and sound that lit up the night sky over PyeongChang and welcomed athletes from across the globe.

A flaming puck, K-Pop music including a live performance from hit duo Clon, a giant disco-ball, and a flying para-boat set off a stunning opening ceremony. The flags were raised and the Paralympic cauldron set alight in a moving Korean collage that married history and heritage with modernity and cutting-edge technology.


Co-existence and co-operation were strong themes in the showpiece event, its most powerful symbol coming with pair of athletes from North and South Korea carrying the flame into the 35,000-seat stadium together.


‘Passion moves us’ was the theme of the opening celebration and it urged co-existence between all peoples and also portrayed a powerful call for physical difference to be accepted with the Paralympics providing a stage for it to be celebrated.

Creative director Kim Moon-tae opened proceedings with a flaming puck smashing a screen that showed a thermometer at boiling point, powered by the energy and enthusiasm of the athletes. Next, Shin Myeong-jin, an amputee performer with a prosthetic arm and legs, appeared on the center stage beating a giant traditional drum. Drummers interpreted the traditional ‘bin-rye’, an ancient welcoming ceremony for guests visiting the royal court of Korea in bygone times.

The guardian flower dance which joins heaven, earth, and everything in between came next:

The pulse of the games

The drums pounded the pulse of the athletes in full flow and then suddenly the tempo slowed to a stop as Taegeukgi, the South Korean national flag, took centre stage, carried into the stadium by eight South Korean Paralympians – four in wheelchairs.

Hwang Young-taek and Kim Hyuk-gun, two singers with physical impairments, together with an all-wheelchair choir sang the national anthem of the hosts, and then it was the turn of the athletes. The parade began with a customary nod to the Olympic origins – the Greek delegation leading the way.

Peak sombrero

There were huge cheers for the U.S. and Canadian representatives. Georgia, Tajikistan, and North Korea made their debut Winter Paralympic Opening Ceremony appearances, and one flag bearer relished his moment more than most as the Mexico team went peak sombrero:

No limits

With the Korean team leaving the stage to a standing ovation it was the turn of a Korean girl with a visual impairment. She drew a universe of light, a dream sequence conjuring a constellation of animals created from her imagination, symbolising how physical impairments are no limit to the imagination or to what a person can achieve.

Bandabi the bear also made his entrance:

It’s on!

Lee Hee-beom, president of PyeongChang’s organizing committee, and Andrew Parsons, president of the International Paralympic Commitee, each took the stage to give speeches before South Korean President Moon Jae-in officially declared the PyeongChang Winter Paralympics open.

The ‘paraboat’ made from equipment that paralympians will use during the games rose and levitated above the ground with a legion of dancers upping the tempo again:

Lighting the torch

Electrifying dance performances gave way to the arrival of the Paralympic torch after a journey of 2018 kilometres, carried by 800 torchbearers across five Korean different cities.

With the moon-shaped cauldron aflame, the final performers were soprano Sumi Jo, singer Sohyang, and Clon, with band member Kang Won Rae who was paralysed from the waist down after a 2000 motorcycle crash, completing a stellar night to augur in the 2018 Winter Paralympics.

The biggest ever

A record 567 athletes from 49 teams will compete for 80 medals in six sports.

Let the games begin!

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Author: Ken Browne
Ken Browne is a multimedia journalist for the Olympic Channel.