The rains came down in buckets towards the very end of the Opening Ceremony of the 15th Paralympic Games in the celebrated Maracana Stadium, a sport landmark not only for Brazilians but indeed peoples of the world. For many it was a blessing, a spiritual catharsis symbolizing the hope and strength of humanity as the Paralympic flamed blazed triumphantly in the downpour.
It was an inspiring start to what many hope will be a memorable games which is taking place for the first time in South America in a country beset with political and economic challenges. Yet there is a strong feeling that these games will unearth the valour of a people known for their rabid nationalism in sport in emerging from the ashes.
Jamaica walked with over one hundred and fifty nations in a parade which has become commonplace but continues to be the signature event of opening ceremonies of Paralympic and Olympic Games. Shane Hudson was the flag bearer and his eyes must have photographed the occasion from the top of the podium as he contemplates the finals of the T46/47 400m where he is one of the favourites for the coveted gold medal.
Similar thoughts must also have ran through the minds of his colleagues Alphanso “The Ambassador” Cunningham and Dana-Gaye Weller both of whom remain focused on the job to be done. It is a first assignment for Chef de Mission, Javon Campbell, but his marshaling of Team Jamaica has inspired the athletes and managers in a demonstration of unity.
An unwelcomed reception from the crowd in a packed stadium at the mention of the Municipal and Federal governments was quite audible but never marred the spirit of friendship and unity which was reflected in a huge mosaic of the faces of the athletes created from puzzle pieces carried by the volunteers who preceded each delegation. It was a fascinating display of art and creative thinking that have come to characterise the opening ceremonies of the Paralympic Games.
The ceremony first depicted the wisdom and genius of man in the portrayal of the invention of the wheel which “drives” transportation and facilitates many capabilities and endeavours today. The drama then unfolded with a beach scene reflecting a “democratic space” of human life with its diversity of “colours, textures and flavours” Yet in this very multiplicity of cultures, there are hearts beating in unison and unity.
The message was clear: humankind can re-invent and transform itself, despite all the challenges, and unleash new powers and abilities.