|View of the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on September 7. AFP/VNA Photo|
The extraordinary sight of US Paralympian Aaron Wheelz jumping in his wheelchair from a 17m ramp got the crowd on its feet. Then the joyous rhythms of samba singers and a carnivalesque reproduction of a
But Brazil’s tensions also flared with thousands in the crowd chanting "Out with Temer!" as newly sworn in President Michel Temer appeared at the ceremony just days after taking over from bitter rival Dilma Rousseff, who was impeached.
Temer’s hurried declaration of "I declare the Games open" met a roar of boos, while booing forced Brazilian Olympics boss Carlos Nuzman to pause his speech after he mentioned "thanks to the federal, state and municipal governments."
But Nuzman said "Brazilians never give up," then he told the athletes: "You are superhumans."
Blind, missing limbs, or partially paralysed, more than 4,300 of the world’s toughest and most competitive disabled paraded ahead of 11 days of contests. Some pushed their own wheelchairs, others were pushed, while others limped.
When the Brazilian team came out in flower-patterned jackets, led by a storming contingent of athletes in wheelchairs, the legendary football stadium roared in delirium.
Olympics chief no show
However, controversy hung over the now show by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach -- the first absence of an IOC chief since the 1984 Summer Games.
Bach is due at a mourning ceremony in
However, there have been suggestions that the no-show has to do with divisions over the Paralympic committee’s outright ban on Russian athletes after allegations of a state-sanctioned doping programme and the IOC’s relatively softer line.
There were also reports in Globo and other Brazilian media outlets that Bach is wanted for questioning by local police investigating an illegal ticket selling ring allegedly involving a senior Irish Olympic official.
"Whether there’s anything else -- I don’t know if there’s anything else," International Paralympic Committee President Philip Craven said of Bach’s decision.
Russian para-athletes, who finished second behind
Separately, UK Athletics will review classifications after the Games, according to BBC News, following concerns that athletes were being mismatched to create an unfair advantage.
Caught in political and economic crises, Rio 2016 organisers have skimped as far as they can on food, transport and accommodation.
The run-up to the Games was also overshadowed by slow ticket sales. This follows concerns about half-empty stadiums at many of the Olympics events.
But organisers have reported a dramatic turnaround in the last few days.
"Two weeks ago we were at 200,000" tickets sold, Craven said. Now sales have reached 1.6 million and are "growing every day."
"We’ll soon be over the 1.7 million mark. Our aim is to sell around 2.4 million," he said.
Six countries are sending athletes for the very first time, and Syrian swimmer Ibrahim Al-Hussein, who lost a leg in an explosion in his nation’s civil war, and Iranian discus thrower Shahrad Nasajpour make up a two-strong refugee team.
The record of 41 career gold medals won by blind American swimmer Trischa Zorn between 1980 and 2004 looks unbeatable, but the Paralympics will inevitably produce new stars.
They have swimmer Xu Qing competing in his fourth and possibly last Games, seeking to add to his seven gold medals. AFP
|Photo taken on September 7 shows the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. XINHUA/VNA Photo|