China is following its successful hosting of the
Olympics with a lower-key opening ceremony for the
international sporting event for handicapped athletes, that runs until September
17. Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing.
Chinese President Hu Jintao officially declared that
the Paralympic games had begun.
The opening ceremony for the Beijing Olympics involved a lavish and elaborate
performance that presented thousands of years of Chinese history.
In contrast, the opening ceremony for the Paralympics was mostly about the
Four thousand physically-disabled athletes from around the world entered the
Bird's Nest stadium, either on foot or in a wheelchair.
Chinese women in bright pink frilly dresses led each of the 146 national
delegations. Groups of young Chinese dancers, dressed in blue shorts and white
baseball caps, danced to the music and waved red flags.
The president of the International Paralympic Committee, Philip Craven, praised
these games as a Paralympic milestone.
"These games will have more athletes, more competing nations and more sporting
events than ever before," he said.
Earlier in the day, President Hu hosted visiting dignitaries for lunch in the
Great Hall of the People.
President Hu says the Beijing Paralympic games are an opportunity for China to
further promote a humanitarian spirit and safeguard the rights of disabled
One notable name on the guest list was Iranian
president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who shook hands and posed for pictures with the
President Hu Jintao (r) greets Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, 06 Sep 2008
In Beijing Saturday, residents watched the Paralympic torch make its way through
the city to the stadium.
Chinese state television showed excited spectators waving flags and cheering for
One spectator told CCTV that just as the Olympics have improved China's position
in the world, he is hopeful the Paralympics will enhance China's position as a
powerful sports country too.
There are 20 sports under competition during the Summer Paralympics. These
include swimming, sailing and judo, as well as things like wheelchair
basketball, wheelchair tennis and wheelchair rugby.
The first day of competition is Sunday, and athletes will use many of the same
venues that were featured in the Olympics.