PYEONGCHANG, South Korea—The cold, foggy night was unable to stop the party that was forthcoming when a cast of thousands in attendance were watching from inside the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium, while the rest of the world watched with bated breath at what was to come in the Opening Ceremony of the 2018 Paralympic Games. But even the below freezing temperatures it didn’t stop the venue to feel the warmth of the ‘flaming puck’ as the countdown broke out of the stadium’s screen.
At the start, fireworks screamed through the air, green lights filled the venue and the countdown from 10 commenced. Video projected graphic flames came down a giant ramp, which would later see the torch climb to the top. It was finally time to go. There was no better way than a gong to make us stand at the ready. The message was loud and clear: be warned… Korea was in the house.
The theme for these games was “Passion Moves Us”, which was omnipresent in every aspect of the ceremony, as well as in the climax of the welcome dance, the Ga-in Flower Dancers and the powerful dynamic of the Korean traditional Ban-go drum dance.
Myeongjin Shin, a Korean triple amputee, was the main star of the show. The performer stole the crowd’s attention once he beated on the Giant Drum. The sound of it symbolized the connection between Heaven and Earth, initiating the thrilling festive atmosphere of the night. The show also featured a giant wheel, which acts as a symbol for coexistence in the world as we know it.
If there was a feeling of déjà vu in the air, it was for a good reason. It has been 30 years since South Korea hosted the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in Seoul together for the first time in history.
Before Korea could enter it’s temple of athletics, the other delegations from the participating countries made their entry in the order of the Korean consonants. Placards leading each delegation were inspired by sotdae as a motif. “Sotdae” is an ancient symbol of birds, trees, and cloths that signify good news and prosperity.
For Team USA’s it was Mike Schultz, a para-snowboarder from Minnesota, who was chosen to be the flag bearer unanimously by his fellow athletes. Shultz was followed by the 74-member American team who with joy and contentment wore pridely the stars and stripes of the american flag.
Andrew Parsons, President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) stepped on stage to officially inaugurate the games by saying, “Without a dream, there is little hope. Seventy years ago this year, Sir Ludwig Guttmann gave hope to millions with his vision of creating opportunities for people with an impairment through sport.” he continued, “Today his dream is stronger than ever. Paralympic sport not only changes lives but also changes the world.”
As if all the passion in the the galaxy can be combined into one orbiting galaxy, the participants of the Pyeongchang 2018 opening ceremony collided to visually stun us to give us a universe of their own. A universe of passion, inclusion, equality and courage, it was a sphere of coexistent, and South Korea was at the center.
The subtext of the ceremony was once again a celebration of the sports excellence of the Paralympic movement. PyeongChang’s task for the upcoming days is not only to offer the greatest level of sports performance and competition but also to be able to be a catalyser for social change, a new world of equality and coexistence where there is no distinction of people by impairment but the recognition of differences.
The Pinnacle of the event arrived when the fire reached the bottom of the ramp leading to the caldron and the torch was handed off midway to a climber, Min-Su Han, the Sled Hockey star known as “The Ice Tiger”who scaled the wall using his one leg reaching the top and passing to Soonseak Seo, a wheelchair curler who ignited the Paralympic flame.
As the Paralympic flame rose, signaled the finale, it reminded the audience of the game’s purpose dictated from the mouth of the President of the Organizing Committee and CEO Lee Hee-beom said “My sincere hope […] is that the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Games will serve the purpose of a cornerstone to create a caring-and-sharing society without discrimination and prejudice well beyond the values of peace and harmony, inspiration and jubilation”.