PYEONGCHANG, March 12, 2018 - From the first blazing fireball of colour to the final blaring rhapsody of song and music, the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games on Friday proved a spectacle worthy of worldwide attention.
With temperatures falling below freezing, spectators, officials and dignitaries busied themselves with staying warm at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium while extending a gracious welcome to the athletes and supporting delegates from the 49 teams gathered in the Republic of Korea (South Korea) for the Games.
It had been just 12 days since the Closing Ceremony of the Winter Olympics but that did not deter the audience from engaging wholeheartedly in the entertainment provided by dancers, drummers, skaters and hundreds of other performers of all ages. Included in the colourful mix was a sizeable sleuth of bears, gladly in the cute and cuddly form of Bandabi the Asiatic black bear, the mascot of these Paralympic Games.
The scene-stealer was Sojeong, a girl with a visual impairment. Dressed in red, she walked bravely alone to the centre of the darkened arena and with a wave of her hands brought the world around her to life. Images of animals and fish flashed around her until she was joined by other children at play.
"In a dream, anything is possible," said Andrew Parsons, president of the International Paralympic Committee, addressing the crowd during the ceremony.
Mr Parsons soon after invited President of the Republic of Korea, Moon Jae-in, to declare the Games open. Other dignitaries in attendance included Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee.
The cauldron was lit in spectacular fashion, with the final torchbearers being South Korean curlers: Paralympian Seo Soonseok and Kim Eun Jung, the popular skip of the women's team which won a silver medal during the Winter Olympics.
The Winter Paralympics remains an event which relies on spirit as much as sporting prowess. Athletes must overcome not only their disabilities to excel, but also the vagaries of the weather and environment. Skill wins medals; resolve wins hearts and inspires so many of us.
Heavy falls of snow have greeted teams arriving in PyeongChang this week. The first medals of the Games were awarded on Saturday, with competition extending for nine days until Sunday, February 18. The programme features 80 events across six sports.
A record 567 athletes from 49 teams are participating in the 2018 Winter Paralympics.