Obrigado Brazil, Obrigado Cariocas

By Orge Castellano

RIO DE JANEIRO – The first Paralympic Games ever celebrated in South America finished with an impressive closing ceremony at Maracanã Stadium, infused with a burst of colors and spectacular music performances that set the carnivalesque and farewell atmosphere only Brazilians could bring.

It was invitation to taste and feel all the sounds, all the colors and tones from different parts of the country. On Sunday, the 11-day spectacle came to an end with athletes and fans gathering at the stadium. As the rain poured down, it seemed as if Rio’s sky was crying over the games being passed onto to Tokyo.

The 2016 Rio games left us with many memorable moments and overall, it was an impressive event despite previous concerns about its quality or feat due to budget cuts, Zika virus and security. The games have been a successful event surrounded by astonishing feats of athleticism and in general, extraordinary talented athletes.

Spectators enjoyed a quite peaceful atmosphere; something many were concerned about. Just a month ago, the organizing committee was in a dark cloud over the lack of funding and delays in some of their duties.

One thing is for sure though, this year´s edition of the Paralympics, which marked its 15th year, was clouded with major controversies and with full of criticism beginning with the ban of the Russian delegation and some other athletes being harshly suspended for anti-doping violations. A drop in ticket sales threatened the success of the game, but later, officials announced that tickets were in fact sold out for many of the games. Both the organizing committee and the Brazilian people proved that there weren’t challenges difficult enough that would interfere with the success of the games, and they decided that nothing was going to bring their spirit down.

“The Brazil we love so much has shown the world what it can do. The impossible happened. And today here we are, at this historical moment, ending a magical era. Brazilian people displayed reliability, courage, verve and much resolve. Brazilians never give up,” said Carlos Nuzman, the president of the Organizing Committee, at closing ceremony.

After 11 days of incredible competitions there’s one thing that became an important element of the games: the crowds. They were energetic, ecstatic and cheered for everyone with emotion and passion, not just Brazil. They brought the dance moves with them to every venue. They celebrated the Paralympic movement, its social inclusion and embraced with open arms, the extraordinary prowess of the athletes.

“Marvelous Cariocas, you warmly embraced these Games and took the athletes to your hearts; the noise you created, the passion you shared, the warmth you provided inspired Paralympians to achieve what some thought impossible. You made the Paralympics your Games, the People’s Games, and we will forever cherish our time spent with you,” said Sir Phillip Craven on his closing ceremony speech.

As Rio officially became a Paralympian city, the IPC awarded the Cariocas and the Brazilian people the honor of being members of the Paralympian Movement. It’s the highest award a group of people can receive from the Paralympic movement. The athletes were also praised and honored in the ceremony with the IPC president adding:

“Paralympians, you are role models for what the world wants to see in today’s sporting heroes. You see obstacles as opportunities, you fight for your rights and here in Rio, you have a unique opportunity to make for a more equitable world. Your values tell people what you stand for and most importantly who you are.”

The Paralympic movement is defined by its legacy: the one that its left to every host country. Brazil won’t be an exemption. Even though as a developing country, it still faces major challenges in offering more inclusion for disabled people, Brazilians across the country will see an increase in their quality of life thanks to the pilot infrastructure built for the games that would ultimately impact and improve their lives and daily situations. Hopes are that it is going to be carried and executed across the whole nation.

As the ceremony came to a close, the Sir Phillip Craven’s message was loud and clear: “An invitation for us to never forget to broaden our senses, to look at differences as sheer power, to build a world designed for all. A party to celebrate universal love.”

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