Parapan American Games Opening Ceremony Honors Peru and the Para-Athlete

MIRAFLORES — In the media guide for the Opening Ceremony of the 2019 Parapan America Games, Ceremonial Creative Director Hansel Cereza left a message that read: 

“I am convinced that it will move you.”

He was not wrong. Cereza, himself was involved in Barcelona’s 1992 Olympics Opening Ceremony and wanted to create something different because of the nature of the games. He said in a Press Conference on Wednesday August 22:

 “We have to present a true story, it’s a spectacle. Once the show takes place, it won’t happen again.” He added that he wanted to have the audience remember that they were there, like in Barcelona when the phrase, “I was there” was used to make people think about the importance of every decision made to to create the spectacle intended. 

The theme to this Games’ Opening Ceremony was “Elevation”. Cereza said,”…the goal was to convey that the present is built upon the past.”. In the press conference, he added that the plot will be about, “Two children who stay in the future, but stay in the past.” adding that, “There is a secret.” BUT “No spoilers.”

The stage was set for  masterpiece of sports theatre at the National Stadium of Lima on August 23, 2019, as the Opening Ceremony for the Lima 2019 Para Pan Games were about to commence. (PHOTO CREDIT: Michael A. Clubine)

The sun was set over The National Stadium of Lima as it was approaching 7:00 PM Central Time. The pre-show had just finished, at the ready were 436 members of the cast, containing 55 with physical limitation, 600 costumes, and guided by 200 production volunteers for the next one hour and fifty nine minutes. And just like that… showtime.

The show contained eleven parts. Part one, aptly named, “The Countdown” was a countdown from ten to zero as the first five numbers (10-6) showed up on a monitor. Numbers five through zero were created out of physical and dynamic choreography, amplified by the use of golden props that emulated ceremonial knives. The knives, are better known as “Tumis”. A Tumi was used by several pre-Hispanic cultures, as their blades were shaped in a circular fashion, while the handle was carved in the shape of a particular deity. 

Six minutes into the ceremony began part two, and in came the Peruvian flag and the playing of the National Anthem of Peru. The flag was carried by Peruvian athletes Daniella Cruz and Kevin Martinez. Succeeding this was the President of Peru being announced along with the President of The Americas Paralympic Committee (APC). 

It was then time for the theatrical portion of the show, which contained the audio works of musical director Chica Gere. The venue was glowing with a green aura. “The Birth” scene started with a gigantic Totem opening on stage and moved into place as lights shone out from all directions in a majestic, magnificent showcase.  Dancers followed wrapped as every bright colored flower imaginable, bringing the spirit of Peru to life.

"The Birth"
Flowery, multi colored dressed dancers work their magic as they create “The Birth” at the Lima 2019 Para Pan American Games Opening Ceremony. (PHOTO CREDIT: Michael A. Clubine)

It was now time for “The March of The Nations”. By the numbers, the 2019 Parapan American Games featured 1,800 para athletes marching in from 30 different countries.  The athletes were to compete in 17 different sports with 18 different disciplines. The 13th nation in line to march was the United States of America, led by flag bearer, and three time Paralympic medalist Katie Holloway, a Sitting Volleyball standout. 

Flag bearer Katie Holloway of sitting Volleyball leads Team USA into National Stadium of LIma. (PHOTO CREDIT: Michael A. Clubine)

The placards for each country were designed custom for the games by Elliot Tupac, a Peruvian artist. He designed the “Chichas” (posters) using Peruvian graffiti in fluorescent colors native to that of Peruvian art.

The exotic horns of music sounded and the crowd ignited like gasoline on a fire as Peru’s delegation entered the stadium. It was their time in the spotlight and they milked every second of it as fans dressed in red and white paraded to chants of “Peru!” surrounded by the lights of stars made by camera phones.

The Para Athletes of host nation Peru arrive in the National Stadium of Lima to Thunderous applause and chants of “Peru!” by spectators. (PHOTO CREDIT: Michael A. Clubine)

Once the athletes arrived in their seats, the story of the Opening Ceremony would finally come to fruition. A large group of acrobats and dancers would enter the arena and amaze the crowd with streams of gold parading around the totem and the arena. As the crowd of dancers and acrobats dissipated, what was left were the two young stars of the opening ceremony: Jheremy Alejos Perez (age 10), and Piero Guidiche Montes (age 13), both children each having only one leg. In this section, “Symbiosis” the children find themselves at the head of the Totem.

The next section, “The Maze’ introduced a vision of the friendship that the two boys shared.  As they navigated its path, their relationship grew stronger as they aged.

“Chaos” soon ensued, as the labyrinth turned to fire, tempered only by the creation of rivers that led to the end of humanity itself. The children were separated as 36 acrobats performed an act at the totem to save it amongst the chaos.  

Suddenly, two golden characters appeared at the top of the totem. This led to “Hope”. Golden characters conducted a ceremony at it’s base, leading to the creation of the Nazca.  This represented lines found in the ground in the Nazca desert dating between 100 B.C. to 800 A.D. Once created we head into a futuristic “Horizon” light show, which shows us the future of Peruvian life itself. Created, was a city landscape through bright LED light sculptures.

The children from earlier in the story return and have aged in the next segment entitled, “Victory”. These new actors who took on the roles were Marco Antonio Morań and José Jesús Díaz Quispe. Morań, a 16-year-old high school student from Peru is also a para athlete competing in the 100 meters run and the long jump. Quispe is a 24-year old college graduate who is also a para athlete on the futbol 7 team. 

The Nazca lines transform into a stopwatch through projections and choreography of performers engaged in dynamic movements representing sport and competition. Once again the crowd of dancers dissipates leaving the two friends once again in the presence of the totem. The two young adult men, dressed in silver, make their way up the totem, climbing up nine meters, to show that competition has officially finished between the two. They reach at the same time for the flag that sits atop the summit and the two embrace in a hug. The saga was over as fireworks filled the air above the National Stadium of Lima.

The lights came back on the President of the Lima 2019 Organizing Committee,  Carlos Neuhau gave his speech followed by the APC President, who invited the President of Peru to announce the games as “Open” in a segment called, “Spirit in Motion”. The APC Flag was then escorted up the stairs by a collective of Peruvian athletes from the all-time greats list. 

These included:  Efrain Sotacuro (Para Athletics Triathlete and placed 4th at the Rio’s 2016 Paralympic Summer Games), Alicia Flores Estrada (Para Swimmer and Cyclist from 1971 Kingston Pan American Wheelchair Games), Yeny Vargas (Para Athlete at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games) Juana Hurtado (Para Swimming Silver Medalist from the 2017 Youth Para Pan American Games), Israel Hilario (Para Cycling 2015 Toronto and Rio 2016 world Champion), Oscar Neyra (Para Swimmer, Kingston 1971 Pan American Wheelchair Games), and lastly Agusto Vasquez (Para Swimmer, 1990 Caracas Para Pan American Games Gold Medalist).

It was finally time for the Paralympic flame to be lit. First, a video was shown, capturing the march of the torch around the world, then finally to Lima, Peru. The torch was in the building. First, brought in by Pompilio Falconi (Mult-medal winning Para Swimmer), then the flame is handed off to Teresa Chappo (Para Table Tennis athlete who medaled at the Toronto 1976 Paralympic games).  While this is all happening, the totem has transformed into a giant 8 string “Quipu”. A Quipu is a instrument originally designed by the Incas and Aztecs to record numbers and colors. 

Jose Gonzales Mugaburu (Para swimming Parlympian, 1976-2000) travels around the arena to the platform so that the torch can officially lit for the Lima 2019 Para Pan American Games. (PHOTO CREDIT: Michael A Clubine)

The Quipu was then used by acrobats to perform from. A third athlete, Jose Gonzales Mugaburu ( Para swimming Parlympian, 1976-2000) hands off to the torch to the final athlete Jimmy Eulert (Para Swimming three time gold medalist),  who lights the ropes of the quipu. The ceremonial flame is lit with an acrobat completing a human chain on the quipu. The games have begun officially, but not before a concert performance from Peruvian band Bareto who played four songs.


What a night here in Lima! Let the games begin!

The official 2019 Para Pan flame has been lit The National Stadium of Lima. (PHOTO CREDIT: Michael A. Clubine)

For more photos from the Lima 2019 Para Pan American Games, please check out:


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