PyeongChang Paralympics kicks off with ceremony highlighting passion, coexistence

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The 2018 PyeongChang Winter Paralympic Games kicked off on Friday with an opening ceremony emphasizing passion and coexistence, according to YONHAP News Agency.

Taking “Passion Moves Us” as its theme, the opening ceremony of the first Winter Paralympics in South Korea took place at the 35,000-seat Olympic Stadium in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province.

The Paralympics, which follows last month’s Winter Olympic Games, will be held in PyeongChang and neighboring cities Gangneung and Jeongseon through March 18. It will be the largest Winter Paralympics ever, with 570 athletes competing for 49 nations. There are a record 80 gold medals up for grab.

The ceremony, put together by executive creative director Kim Moon-tae, started with an introductory video that symbolically showed the passion of the athletes boiling the mercury of a thermometer. The countdown began as a para ice hockey player shot a “flaming puck” that broke the screen. As the count reached zero, the ground froze up, and fireworks signaled the opening of the winter festival.

Shin Myeong-jin, an amputee performer with a prosthetic arm and legs, then appeared on the center stage beating a giant traditional drum. It was a newly interpreted percussion performance of the traditional “bin-rye,” the welcoming ceremony for important guests visiting the royal court of Korea in earlier times.

As the performance of various traditional drums began, the circular stage in the center rose. The powerful sound of many beats combined to convey a message of harmony. A hundred dancers then joined the feast with elegantly choreographed movements.

The emblem of the PyeongChang Paralympic Winter Games was then mapped on the stage and the welcome message was displayed.

The performances were put on hold momentarily as Taegeukgi, the South Korean national flag, was transported into the stadium by eight South Korean Paralympians — four in wheelchairs — along the frozen waterway depicted on the ground. The stage was then colored with the red-and-blue taegeuk symbol.

In the end, the Paralympic cauldron was lit by two curlers who represented the coexistence sports at the Paralympic and Olympic Games. Kim Eun-jung, a member of South Korea’s silver medal-winning women’s curling team at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, and Seo Soon-seok, a member of wheelchair curling team at the PyeongChang Winter Paralympics, brought the flame to a small “sphere of coexistence” that eventually lit the moon-jar shaped cauldron at the Olympic Stadium and colored the sky with fireworks.

The flame for the PyeongChang Paralympics had been first born in five local cities before being united on Saturday with three other flames — a flame representing the 1988 Seoul Summer Paralympic Games, a flame from Stoke Mandeville in Britain, the birthplace of the Paralympics, and a digitally created flame. A total of 800 torchbearers participated in groups of two to complete the 2,018 kilometer distance.