Paralympics opens with a bang

2004-09-18 07:58

Athens - Some 70 000 spectators filled the Athens Olympic stadium on Friday night to watch the densely choreographed and emotionally-charged opening ceremony of the 12th Paralympics, the world's premier competition for disabled athletes.

The Games begin on Saturday and will last twelve days, ending on September 28.

Following the Greek national anthem, the four-hour extravaganza of light, sound and symbolism began with the stirring procession of the athletes grouped by country, 136 nations in all.

That was six fewer than originally announced, but 11 more than the Sydney Games in 2000, making this the most attended Paralympics in history.

The delegations large and small, ranging from Benin and Afghanistan to the huge contingents from the United States and China, paraded around a towering 26-metre oak in the middle of the pitch, standing as a steadfast symbol of deeply rooted life.

The athletes -- some in wheel chairs, others walking on high-performance prosthetics -- paraded to the thundering beat of a percussion ensemble playing one of many pieces composed for the occasion.

The crowd responded enthusiastically, breaking into chant and song as the Greek delegation brought of the rear and made its way around the track.

As was the case during the summer Games, which ended here barely three weeks ago, Iraq was given one of the warmest ovations of the evening, along with the Greek-speaking Republic of Cyprus.

One athlete from Turkmenistan earned a great roar of approval when he cast aside his crutches and began to walk on his hands.

The almost hypnotic percussive beat, lasting almost two hours as the 4000 athletes and their entourages filed past, changed slightly to reflect country of origin: a bit of samba for Brazil, an oriental lilt for Arab countries, a touch of flamenco for Spain.

At the end of the procession, Gianni Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, president of the Athens 2004 organising committee, officially welcomed all the Athletes and declared the Games open.

The second phase of the evening featured a series of meticulously choreographed performances designed to evoke basic elements: fire, water, wind and the sun, and featured the lighting of the Paralympic flame.

The 4000 elite disabled athletes will compete over 12 days in 19 disciplines, including swimming, athletics, archery, wheelchair basketball, cycling, equestrian, wheelchair fencing, 5-a-side and 7-a-side football, goalball, judo, powerlifting, sailing, shooting, table tennis, wheelchair tennis, volleyball, wheelchair rugby and boccia.


AB praises selfless skipper

2010-11-21 18:15

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.