A massive Opening Ceremony in Beijing on Saturday night welcomed the world to the Paralympic Games. The ceremony, which took place in the "Bird's Nest", was witnessed by a full house of spectators from all over the world.
During the three-hour event, the show focused on the "harmony between man and nature", with three different parts - space, time and life. Incorporated into the whole event was the 2008 Paralympic Games theme of "Transcendence, Equality and Integration". A total of 420 actors with a disability participated in the Opening Ceremony, marking one of the largest performances of this sort.
In the first part of the ceremony, a performer dressed and decorated as a sunbird descended from the top of the stadium, virtually flying to the other side where she met a singer standing alone. Their meeting woke him, and prompted him to sing the tales of his heart. The awakening by the presence of a sunbird is a typical symbol of Chinese culture.
Directly after this beginning, the some 4,000 athletes from 147 different countries came onto the floor with their trainers and officials to round the stadium. This allowed the athletes to watch the majority of the Opening Ceremony with a front row seat. Later, dozens of ballerinas took the stage, with one young girl using a wheelchair directly centred in the spotlight. The 11 year old girl lost her leg in the devastating earthquake that struck southwest China this past May. She continues however, to pursue her dream of becoming a ballet dancer. Following the representation of the four seasons - winter, spring, summer and autumn - hundreds of young dancers took the floor.
The President of BOCOG, Liu QI, and the President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), Sir Philip CRAVEN, presented their speeches on a raised stage towards the end of the Ceremony. They each spoke about the Paralympic athletes and the great effort that Beijing has made to make these Games successful. Sir Philip was followed by the President of China, Hu JINTAO, who then officially declared open the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games.
The final moments were the official lighting of the cauldron, which was in the shape of a large torch atop the stadium. Chinese gold medallist and Paralympic Ambassador, Hou BIN, pulled himself up by a rope to the top of the National Stadium, hand-over-hand about 100 metres.
Sir Philip said the stadium reflects a shining example of China's commitment to a modern world. The Bird's Nest and the people who fill it will ultimately make the Games successful. "When combined with the Team and Games Officials, the media and the sponsors, and China's incomparable volunteers, you all create this unique Paralympic experience," he said. "When we come together, we will be part of the creation of an almost untouchable and definitely breathable distinctive energy source, which is at the heart of the Paralympic Movement, and it is what we call the Paralympic spirit."
ISAF Paralympic Games microsite - www.sailing.org/paralympics