10 days of competition at the 2018 PyeongChang Paralympic Games kicked off on Friday with the Opening Ceremony, which aired live on NBCSN at 6 a.m. ET. The Opening Ceremony was held at the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium in the venue hub known as the Mountain Cluser. The Olympic Stadium, which seats 35,000 people, also hosted the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February.
Welcome to the Paralympic Games
The Opening Ceremony began with a drum performance led by Shin Myeong-Jin, a South Korean performer with a prosthetic arm and legs. The segment was an interpretation of “bin-rye,” a traditional welcoming ceremony performed for important guests to the royal court of Korea. The beating of the various drums symbolized the “passionately pounding hearts” of the athletes, according to the official media guide.
“Passion Moves Us”
One of the themes of the Opening Ceremony was passion and its ability to bring people together. The 2018 Paralympic organizers took inspiration from the Latin word “Agitos,” which translates to “I move.” They explained in the media guide that “passion is the source of energy that derives us to move. It creates the world of coexistence where there is no distinction of people by impairment but the recognition of differences… I move; therfore, I exist.”
The U.S. Paralympic team was led into the Opening Ceremony by snowboarder Mike Schultz, a world silver medalist in the new Paralympic event of banked slalom. Before becoming a snowboarder, Schultz was a competitive snowmobiler. In 2008, Schultz’s left leg was amputated above the knee after a snowmobiling crash. Schultz started creating his own prosthetics and many of his competitiors in PyeongChang will wear prosthetics made by Schultz.
Schultz told the AP, “I do take a lot of pride in knowing that I’ve helped these athletes step up their performance game a little bit – or a lot. It’s very rewarding to see these athletes really bring their ‘A’ game and do the level of riding that they all do.”
North and South Korea
Unlike at the 2018 Winter Olympics, the two athlete delegations from North and South Korea marched into the Opening Ceremony separately. North Korea is participating in the Winter Paralympics for the first time in PyeongChang. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) offered two special spots to North Korean Nordic skiers
After the North and South Korean delegations decided against marching together, IPC president Andrew Parsons said in a press release, “Although we are disappointed, we respect the decision of the two [National Paralympic Committees] who decided that marching separately would be better for both parties. At the end of the meeting both [National Paralympic Committees] recognized that their participation in PyeongChang 2018 has brought them closer together, and the two have committed to working more closely together in the future.”
The Olympic flame arrives
Pairs of athletes–a cross-country skier and her coach, a father and son, and an Alpine skier with a visual impairment and her guide–continued the Olympic torch relay into the Olympic Stadium. One of the final torch bearers was Han Min-Su, a member of the South Korean sled hockey team. The torch was attached to his backpack, and he used a rope to climb up the final portion of the ramp to the Olympic cauldron. At the top, he handed the torch over to two curlers: Seo Soon-Seok, the skip of the South Korean men’s wheelchair curling team, and Kim Eun-Jung, the skip of the South Korean women’s curling team that won a silver medal at last month’s Olympics.
Together, Seo and Kim lit the white porcelain cauldron, which is the same one used for the PyeongChang Olympics. The cauldron is inspired by the traditional piece of pottery known as the “moon jar,” and resembles a full moon.
The Opening Ceremony concluded with a fireworks show that lit up the sky above PyeongChang.