Equally splendid Beijing Paralympics a continuation of success, outline China’s humanistic care for people with disabilities
Mutual understanding, respect matter as world torn apart: experts
Published: Mar 05, 2022 12:48 AM
Photo:Cui Meng/GT

Photo:Cui Meng/GT

About four weeks after the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games opening ceremony, which injected hope and confidence into the world with a theme of spring, the Paralympic Games opening ceremony kicked off Friday at the same stage of the Bird's Nest in Beijing, displaying stories of self-reliance, inclusiveness, and mankind unity.  

Closely following the phenomenal Winter Olympic Games which have shown China's ability in epidemic control and events hosting, as well as the escalating Ukraine crisis, the Paralympics opening was filled with warmth and strength. 

China's message is clear, as the Paralympics are a stage to display determination to make progress in human rights and the protection of the disabled. China on Thursday issued its first white paper on sports participation of people with disabilities, which summarized China's efforts and achievements in developing parasports for the public as well as the competitive parasports.

The opening ceremony started at 8 pm, before which the countdown performance looked back at the history of the Paralympic Games and the inspiration of the Paralympic Spirit.

As the disabled college choir sang the household patriotic song "Me and my Motherland", representatives who have contributed to the cause of disabled people and disabled athletes escorted the Chinese national flag into the stadium. The red flag stood out against the blue background of snow and ice.

Photo:Cui Meng/GT

Photo:Cui Meng/GT

Three Shuey Rhon Rhon, the Paralympics mascot, then entered the stadium on skates to lead the athletes' parade, with the ice tracks extending under their feet to reveal the word "welcome."  

When the Ukrainian Paralympic delegation paraded into the Bird's Nest, they received cheers and applause - for the athletes from the country at war who still showed up on time. The loudest cheers came as Team China paraded into the Bird's Nest. 

Team China members enter the Bird's Nest at the opening ceremony for Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games on March 4, 2022. Photo: Cui Meng/GT

Team China members enter the Bird's Nest at the opening ceremony for Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games on March 4, 2022. Photo: Cui Meng/GT

The Chinese contingent includes 217 people and 96 athletes, the country's largest ever presence at the Winter Paralympics. The 2022 Winter Paralympic Games have a total of six major sports, 78 gold medals to complete. 

The Games bring us together, to convey confidence, love, and hope, and to show that mankind can stand together in the face of difficulties, Cai Qi, chairman of the Beijing 2022 organizing committee, said at the opening.

Cai said he believes that the Paralympic Games will promote the cause of the disabled and make outstanding contributions to the progress of social civilization.  

International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Andrew Parsons spoke highly of China's preparation under the COVID-19 pandemic.   

"Change starts with sport. Not only can it bring harmony, but it can be a catalyst to transforming the lives of people, cities and countries," said Parsons. "As the first city to stage both the Summer and Winter Paralympics, Beijing is proof of this."

Chinese President Xi Jinping then declared the opening of the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games to a huge cheer.

Photo:Cui Meng/GT

Photo:Cui Meng/GT

Share weal and woe

There were quite a few performances in the opening ceremony that reflected the concept of unity and friendship between the able-bodied and those with disabilities. Thirty percent of the performers were disabled, and during the months of rehearsals, they worked closely together with other performers.

The performers of the Paralympic song were 47 visually impaired children, ranging from 10 to 22. They went through 116 days of practice. While in a waltz performance, half were hearing-disabled performers who cooperated with others through sign language. 

Photo:Cui Meng/GT

Photo:Cui Meng/GT

Before the raising of the Paralympic flag, rings of Braille were projected from the center of the stadium, which ended with the words "change starts with sports" in Chinese and English.  

The most touching part of the ceremony arrived when Li Duan, Paralympic long jump and triple jump champion at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, placed the torch in the middle of a giant snowflake-shaped cauldron which later ascended to the top of the Bird's Nest stadium, after the torch was relayed among eight Paralympic athletes inside the stadium.

Li, who is visually impaired, was led to the cauldron by volunteers. He groped his way with his hands and finally lit the torch to cheers.

Photo:Cui Meng/GT

Photo:Cui Meng/GT

After the cauldron was lit, the IPC logo exploded in the sky in a fireworks display.  

Zhang Yimou, chief director of the opening ceremony, disclosed that the theme of the opening ceremony is "blossom of life," displaying the touching moments of life of the disabled. 

Wei Jingyang, a performer for the opening ceremony and leading dancer for the China Disabled People's Performing Arts Troupe who lost her hearing when she was only 1 year old, told the Global Times through a translator shortly before the opening ceremony that she felt both excited and nervous to participate in the Beijing Paralympics again after 14 years. 

Wei performed at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games.

Wei said she was deeply moved by China's achievements in protecting and improving the welfare of people with disabilities over the past years, which made each disabled person more determined to fulfill their goals.

"Over the past 14 years, my biggest feeling was that the country paid growing attention to disabled people. I could feel that the country cares about each disabled person when I was chosen to perform for disabled people in different organizations and villages," she said.  

The government's care was also reflected in its efforts in developing more accessible facilities, no matter in the hardware side of barrier-free facilities or information and technology that offer convenience in communication, she said. 

The holding of the Paralympic Games and the development of the cause of the disabled are essentially determined by national strength, said Beijing-based sports commentator Wang Dazhao. "China has achieved extreme-poverty eradication and moderate prosperity, and the disabled cannot be left behind."

Editor: Deng Zijun/GT Graphic: Xu Zihe/GT

Editor: Deng Zijun/GT Graphic: Xu Zihe/GT

China has more than 80 million disabled people. Wang told the Global Times that the Winter Paralympics are a great opportunity to bring about social change. "It is of greater importance to let more people respect and help disabled people than to build a few blind tracks on the road." 

China will also host the Asian Games and The Asian Para Games in Hangzhou in October. "Hangzhou is also looking to Beijing, hoping that more cities will learn and pass on the practices of caring for the disabled by hosting para events," Wang said.   

Ren Hai, a professor at the Olympic Research Center of Beijing Sports University, said hosting the Winter Paralympics will bring a comprehensive impact on Chinese society in terms of ideas and values.  

The combination of the Olympics and the disadvantaged groups will encourage more disabled people to participate in sports activities, Ren said, noting the Paralympics are more about humanitarian values than commercial values.

When the world is torn apart, mutual understanding, tolerance and respect are particularly important, said Ren. "Not only the cohesion and stability in a single country, but also solidarity of the community with a shared future for mankind."