Paralympic Opening Ceremony highlighted by bold call for peace

Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics - Opening Ceremony
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The Winter Paralympics began with a 100-minute Opening Ceremony at Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Stadium and a powerful speech lighting the way for nine days of medal competition that start Saturday.

China’s Li Duan, a four-time Paralympic champion between the long jump and triple jump, was the final torchbearer, placing his torch in the snowflake-shaped cauldron.

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Ukraine was the last team to arrive before the Opening Ceremony. Before marching into the open stadium, team members received applause from other athletes and held banners that read, “STOP WAR” and “PEACE FOR UKRAINE,” NBC Sports’ Carolyn Manno reported.

Ukraine was fourth in the Parade of Nations lineup about an hour later. Most of the delegation of 20 athletes and nine guides appeared to be marching. At least three members raised a fist in the air.

“It is a miracle that we have made it to the Paralympics,” Ukraine Paralympic Committee President Valerii Sushkevych said after the team arrived on Wednesday. “We are all thinking about our people in Ukraine because, boom, and they are killed, because thousands of people died so we ask all Europe, all world, stop the war. Together.”

International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons opened his speech in the stadium with a passionate call for peace.

“As the leader of an organization with inclusion at its core, where diversity is celebrated and differences embraced, I am horrified at what is taking place in the world right now,” he said. “The 21st century is a time for dialogue and diplomacy, not war and hate.”

Later in one segment, a short video titled “WeThe15” played, aiming to increase the visibility, accessibility and inclusion of the world’s 1.2 billion people with disabilities, or 15 percent of the global population.

Alpine skiers Danelle Umstead and Tyler Carter carried the U.S. flag into the stadium.

“So many emotions right now,” Carter said before marching. “It’s been such a hard journey to get to this Games. It’s been a crazy experience, and I’m loving every minute.”

Russia and Belarusian athletes were barred from the Games on Thursday. The Russian Paralympic Committee initially said it planned to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but on Friday said the IPC’s rules prevented them from doing so. It said its athletes will go home, and it may take legal action at a later date.

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