The Paralympics will see over 500 athletes from 46 countries and regions compete for medals in 78 events until March 13.
Less than two weeks after the closing of the Beijing Winter Olympics, China's iconic National Stadium burst into the limelight again as the Paralympic Winter Games opened on Friday night with a ceremony highlighting accessibility and inclusion.
Under the theme of "Improve, Go Beyond, Together," which is inspired by an ancient Chinese saying "One should aim to improve oneself as long as the days go by," the opening ceremony featured performers from all walks of life as individuals with and without disabilities came together to welcome friends from all over the world.
The one-and-a-half-hour-long ceremony reached its climax when Li Duan, Paralympic long jump and triple jump champion at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, placed the Paralympic torch in the middle of a giant snowflake-shaped cauldron which later ascended to the top of the stadium.
Belgium led the parade of athletes of 46 National Paralympic Committees (NOCs), as hosts China marched into the stadium last behind Italy, the hosts of the 2026 Winter Games, with Guo Yujie and Wang Zhidong holding the Chinese national flag together.
In a highlight of the ceremony, the Agitos, the symbol of the Paralympic Games, was painted on the palm of an individual with vision impairment. As the smallest showcasing of the Agitos in any Paralympic Summer and Winter Games, it was then passed along, beckoning more and more individuals with disabilities to change their lives with sport.
The Paralympic Flag was then carried into the stadium by eight honor guards including six Paralympic gold medalists, with the wheelchairs of four mobility limited individuals embroidered with the purple "WeThe15" logo.
As a wind ensemble band comprised of vision limited individuals, aging from 10 to 22, played the Paralympic Anthem, the Paralympic Flag was raised high in the stadium. Eight para-athletes served as torch bearers in the final torch relay inside the National Stadium.
Fireworks in the shape of the Agitos, smiling faces and snowflakes lit up the sky of the dual Olympic city again, representing the purity, warmth and multicolored expressions of the Beijing Winter Paralympics. The Paralympics will see over 500 athletes from 46 countries and regions compete for medals in 78 events until March 13.