The Associated Press RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The Paralympic Games opened Wednesday with 4,350 athletes demonstrating first-hand their creed: “The heart knows no limits; everybody has a heart.”
Wheelchair daredevil Aaron Wheelz showed the spirit in the opening act. As a countdown from 10 reached its end, Wheelz raced down a giant ramp and somersaulted in the air through a giant 0 on the stadium floor. That finished the countdown and shattered more stereotypes about what athletes with disabilities can do.
The president of the International Paralympic Committee, Philip Craven, made a similar point with his speech. Craven, who lost the use of his legs in a rock-climbing fall at the age of 16, reminded Brazilians they have their own problems to overcome.
Craven suggested Brazilians follow the lead of Paralympians.
“In a country which has faced major challenges of late, Paralympians will switch your focus from perceived limitations — to a world full of possibility and endless opportunity,” Craven said. “They will surprise you, inspire and excite you, but most of all they will change you.”
A notable absentee was International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach. The IOC chief said he had to miss the ceremony to attend a state mourning ceremony in Germany for Walter Scheel, the former West Germany president. Craven told reporters it is the first time since Salt Lake City in 2002 that an IOC president had missed a Paralympic opening.Speech