By Candace Cable and Orge Castellano
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea͢—thirty years have passed since South Korea hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics and Paralympic Games, it was the first time both events were held in tandem bringing the Paralympic Games into the global spotlight. A lot of things have changed since that moment, the Games have become a global phenomenon, the 3rd largest sporting event, and it has provided a new light of the opportunity to millions of disabled people across the world to play sports. The Paralympics bring billions of spectators every year and break records in every edition. The games have exceeded expectations on all fronts, surpassing previous ticket sales reaching over 320,531, breaking the most tickets sold for a Winter Games edition.
The farewell party didn’t disappoint, and like the opening ceremony it was filled with a good dosage of traditional Korean artistry from music, to poetry, to dancing and phenomenal visual effects. It was a historical timeline combining the ancient and the modern.
“Tonight is a celebration, a celebration that if you dare to dream, you must do your best to fulfill it,” said International Paralympic Committee president, Andrew Parsons, who charmingly engaged with the audience throwing a couple of sentences in perfect Korean.
The ceremony began with the athletes, flag bearers of each country parading into the arena to join the rest of their teammates. Arariyo, a 600-year-old folk song, stunned the audience with the simplicity and power of its drumming accompanied by a multitude of dancers flowing around the stadium in unison to the music. The highlights of the 10-day journey of joy and sorrow that Paralympians experienced here in Pyeongchang was screened for everyone to enjoy.
An essential piece of all closing ceremonies is the revealing of new athletes representatives to the IPC and the awarding of the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award to two Paralympic athletes. This recognition is given in honor of the Dr. Whang Youn Dai, who is an advocate who has devoted her entire life to rehabilitation sport of Korean people with an impairment. This prestigious award represents all the Paralympic values: Determination, Courage, Inspiration, and Equality. The award is given to the best athletes who exemplified the spirit of the games, this year it was the turn of New Zealand’s Alpine skier Adam Hall and Finnish Sini Pyy who is a Biathlon and Cross country para athlete
The USA for the third consecutive time of the Winter Games came on top of the medal count with 36 medals in total, 13 gold, 15 silver and 8 bronze.
As the ceremony drew to a close, the show gave the world a chance to rejoice in its central theme “We Move the World” an opportunity to see how the winter festival transitions to the blossoming of the spring. It was a sincere moment of reflection, spring, as an element of farewell encouraging the spectators to march towards the world of coexistence. The flowers in full bloom were a symbol representing a new world that has already begun to change.
Declaring the 2018 Paralympics closed, International Paralympic Committee president, Andrew Parsons, said: “Paralympians, you have once again pushed the boundaries of human endeavor. Your logic-defying performances have focused the world not on what holds you back, but on what motivates you and push you forward. You have shown that with a strong mind and even stronger heart, you can achieve incredible feats. Ultimately, you have rewritten the theory of everything and given new purpose to the possibility”.
The Pyeongchang games gave a new insight to Korea, providing the nation with a fresh perspective on the values of sportsmanship and inclusion that Paralympians bring when they come together. For the organizers, the staff, the regular citizens, and most importantly, the volunteers—the games makers—it was a great opportunity to embrace diversity and differences among people.
“I hope that these Games will serve the purpose as a turning point to realise its core values of courage and determination never to give up under any difficult circumstances whatsoever on one hand, and to make the world much more friendly and humane, without prejudice or discrimination, on the other” said Lee Hee-beom, president of the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Organising Committee at his closing message.
A series of stunning fireworks display exploded all over the Olympic Stadium bringing the performance to its climax, officially closing out the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang.