the Paralympic Games begin
March 10, 2006
An estimated crowd of 25,000 joined celebrities, officials and athletes
from around the world at the opening ceremony of the IX Paralympic
Winter Games in Turin, Italy, on Friday.
Under the theme "overcoming all limits,"
the show featured dance numbers, musical performances and the parade
An estimated 600 competitors from 40 countries, including first-time
Paralympic participants Mexico and Mongolia, entered Stadio Olimpico
– the same venue that hosted the Olympic opening ceremony
one month ago.
Sledge hockey star Todd Nicholson of Embrun, Ont., led Canada's
34-athlete contingent into the stadium.
Nicholson was awarded the honour of Canadian flag-bearer at an
emotional news conference on Wednesday where the 37-year-old hockey
player proclaimed, "It's time to carry Canadian Paralympic
sports to new a level."
Considered one of the best sledge hockey players in the world,
Nicholson has helped Canada win two Paralympic medals and four world
championships during his 15-year career.
Following the parade of nations, International Paralympic Committee
president Sir Philip Craven addressed the crowd from a podium specially
designed to accommodate his wheelchair. He praised the host country
for holding the first-ever Paralympic Games in the summer of 1960
in Rome and asked athletes to honour the Paralympic oath by rejecting
"I know I can count on you to compete hard but also fairly,"
said Craven, a former Paralympic wheelchair basketball champion
for Great Britain.
After Craven's speech the Paralympic torch was brought into the
stadium and passed through a chain of disabled athletes before being
used to light the Paralympic cauldron, which will burn throughout
The large stage at the centre of the stadium, where the cauldron
sits, featured five ramps to make it accessible to disabled participants.
The show ended with a spectacular fireworks and laser-light display
followed by joyous dancing by several of the disabled and able-bodied
performers to a mix of disco classics.
Italian rock band Ligabue, mountaineer and writer Reinhold Messner
and former Formula 1 driver Alex Zanardi were among the celebrities
who took part in the ceremony. Zanardi lost both his legs in a horrific
accident during a race in Germany on Sept. 15, 2001.
Also on hand were International Olympic Committee president Jacques
Rogge and Italian president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.
The show was produced by K2006 – FilmMaster Group, the same
firm that put together the opening and closing extravaganzas for
the Torino Olympics.
Linked to the Olympic celebrations, the Winter Paralympics take
place every four years. Canada has taken part in every Paralympics,
both the Summer and Winter Games, since 1968.
The 2006 Paralympics take place in the same venues as the Winter
Olympics, with competition beginning Saturday and running until