Place RIO DE JANEIRO (Xinhua) -- The Rio
Paralympic Games officially opened on Wednesday with a
four-hour extravaganza featuring high-octane energy,
artistic creativity and touching humanity.
With a central theme of “Everybody has
a heart”, the opening ceremony’s producers promised a
show that would “surprise, provoke and celebrate with a
Brazilian twist”. And they did not disappoint.
Despite wet and windy conditions at
the Maracana stadium, a capacity crowd of more than
50,000 attended the show, which was beamed to television
viewers in 154 countries and regions.
The ceremony began with a video that
showed images of the Paralympic Games’ birthplace at
Stoke Mandeville before super-imposing Sir Philip
Craven, the president of the International Paralympic
Committee, on a montage of diverse Brazilian landscapes.
Craven, himself a former Paralympic athlete, then
appeared in the Maracana stands where he activated a
countdown on a large panel.
As the countdown reached its climax,
Aaron Wheelz, an extreme wheelchair athlete, hurtled
down a 17-meter ramp and executed a stunning reverse
somersault while fireworks lit up the skyline. With the
tone of the ceremony set, the work of artistic directors
Vik Muniz, Fred Gelli, Marcelo Paiva and Paula Mello
then subtly delivered the ceremony’s central theme.
In a tribute to one of the oldest
icons of human ingenuity - the wheel - seven-year-old
percussionist Pedrinho da Serrinha entered the stage
while playing a solo on the pandeiro, a Brazilian
hand-frame drum. A samba circle of artists appeared
around him while images projected from above gave the
impression that the stage was revolving.
Props were used to create an optical
effect of a wheel that transformed into several colorful
variations before disappearing to once again make Pedro
and his pandeiro the focal point.
No celebration of Rio de Janeiro’s
culture would be complete without a mention of the
city’s beaches, an internationally- recognized symbol of
Rio’s diversity, spontaneity and hospitality.
As Brazilian Paralympic swimmer Daniel
Dias dived into crystalline waters, a spectacular
sunrise emerged over a golden-sand beach. Cariocas - as
Rio residents are known - arrived en masse, with
surfers, sunbathers, vendors, sports enthusiasts and
people with physical disabilities sharing the same
stretch of sand. The beachgoers then broke into song and
dance, stopping only to applaud the sunset, a typical
The spotlight shifted to a large
Brazilian flag while pianist Joao Carlos Martins
performed Brazil’s national anthem. Dozens of beach
umbrellas opened up to reveal a giant image of the
Spectators’ attention then turned to
the athletes for their traditional stadium entry and
parade. Each team had a placard bearer carrying jigsaw
pieces which they assembled one-by-one in the center of
Unsurprisingly the biggest cheer of
the night was reserved for Brazil, the final team to set
foot inside the stadium. The hosts’ entry meant that the
last piece of the puzzle was put in place, revealing an
image of a heart which, with the help of special visual
effects, began to beat.
After speeches from Rio 2016
organizing committee president Carlos Nuzman and Craven,
the Games were officially declared open. The next
segments were dedicated to broadening the senses and
questioning the predominance of sight by emphasizing the
importance of touch, smell, taste and hearing.
The Maracana went into darkness before
people carrying light sticks - in a manner reminiscent
of the blind carrying canes - made their way across the
stage. Meanwhile a huge graphic eye came into view
before being deconstructed, conveying the feeling of
blindness. An optical illusion, and the use of an
equalizer to converge light and sound, enhanced the
sense of hearing.
Touch became the main theme when
dancers Oscar and Renato came together on a projected
tactile floor, revealing their blindness. A synesthesia
effect was created by the use of a vertical screen that
augmented the tactile experience - transforming the
sense of touch into a visual dimension.
A video showed a dancer in poses that
reflected Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. The scene
challenged common perceptions of perfect geometric
shape. Moments later a human kaleidoscope was formed,
giving the audience the impression that there were
hundreds of dancers on stage when in fact there were
less than 20.
Most Paralympians would not have
reached the elite levels of their sports if not for the
support of family and friends. The artistic directors
paid tribute to those people by telling their stories of
dedication and love.
A short video explained how Alexandre
Faleiros created a special boot to allow his disabled
son to fulfil his dream of playing football. A group of
disabled children then entered the stage wearing the
boots, flanked by their parents and friends.
Following the swearing of the oaths,
the ceremony entered its penultimate and arguably most
touching segment. It was here that the human element of
the Paralympic movement was most evident.
Disabled dancer and Paralympic athlete
Amy Purdy shared the stage with Kuka, an industrial
robot, and both challenged each other to
ever-more-difficult dance moves.
The movements become synchronized
before Purdy’s swing proved too much for the robot to
handle. Aware of its limitations, the robot bowed to
Purdy’s superiority, pointedly conveying the message
that no machine can replace human emotion, creativity
There was one more message before the
show was finished. It came when Brazilian Paralympic
athlete Clodoaldo Silva carried the torch toward the
pyre only to be stymied by an insurmountable staircase.
Gasps reverberated around the Maracana
as the audience empathised with Silva while wondering
how the pyre would be lit. Then, as if willed on by the
crowd, the staircase morphed into a ramp, allowing Silva
to make his way to the top and set Rio’s Paralympic