Incredible stunt by extreme wheelchair athlete and beautiful robotic dance among highlights before swimmer Clodoaldo Silva lights cauldron. Rio de Janeiro welcomed the 2016 Paralympic Games to Brazil on Wednesday (7 September) night with a spectacular wheelchair stunt and a colourful display of some of the city's most treasured charms – sand, sea and samba.
The opening ceremony at the Maracana Stadium began when Aaron Wheelz Fotheringham, a extreme wheelchair athlete, hurtled down a long ramp from the stands, jumped through a giant ring – as fireworks exploded around him – and landed on a huge inflatable mattress.
The then mood switched to the more relaxed side of Rio life – with samba music and a typical day at the beach with surfers, swimmers, sun-seekers and venders.
The centre of the stadium, usually the stage for Brazil's greatest footballers, was transformed into the ocean and then into a beach.
Few of the nearly 4,500 athletes from 159 National Paralympic Committee's (NPCs), some of whom were involved in a parade of athletes at the Maracanã, will have time to enjoy Rio's famous Copacabana beach during the next 11 days of action starting from Thursday.
But they were reminded of the picturesque backdrop and party atmosphere of the Rio Games.
After the parade, in which each NPC brought in a piece of a jigsaw making up the picture of a heart in the centre of the stadium, Carlos Arthur Nuzman, the president of the Rio 2016 Organising Committee, told the ceremony: "We celebrate a great challenge today – to build a new world, more accessible to all.
"Fairer, more fraternal, where all are able to walk hand-in-hand with no obstacles. It is a difficult mission, which makes us stronger."
In his speech, Sir Philip Craven, the president of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), said: "In a country which has faced major challenges of late, Paralympians will switch your focus from perceived limitations to a world full of possibility and endless opportunity. They will surprise you, inspire and excite you, but, most of all, they will change you."
Following a beautifully seductive dance featuring an industrial robot and Paralympic snowboarder Amy Purdy, which highlighted humankind's coexistence with technology, the ceremony reached a climax when the flame was lit by swimmer Clodoaldo Silva, one of Brazil's most decorated Paralympians with 13 medals, including six golds.
The 37-year-old, who plans to retire after the Games, manouvered his wheelchair up huge ramps to light the flame. And the night then finished as it began – with another samba.
REHACARE.com; Source: Rio 2016