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Paralympics Opening Ceremonies: One Inspires Many

Mar 18, 2010

by Naomi Buell, Marketing Assistant at VIA Architecture

Having recently had the pleasure of watching the Paralympic opening ceremonies, I can say that “one inspires many” is a very appropriate theme. While the Olympics appear to be about pushing yourself with “Faster, Higher, Stronger” as their motto and a creed which encourages the fight and the struggle; the Paralympics are about inspiration and spirit. With a motto like “spirit in motion” and this years inspiring ceremony, I think they spread their message well.

Not only were the performances inspiring, they were also amazing to watch. I think everyone’s jaw dropped when Montreal born Luca Patuelli’s used his crutches to propel himself upwards during his break dancing number. Patuelli, who goes by lazylegz, has needed crutches since the age of three but his outlook is, without a doubt, inspirational. During his performances he uses his crutches as an extension of his arms, he says “yeah, I need them, but what people might see as a disadvantage, I use as an advantage.”

Following Luca were some presentations that were a little more emotionally driven including those about Rick Hansen’s man in motion tour and Terry Fox’s marathon of hope. These two BC athletes have truly embodied “where there’s a will there’s a way.” Terry Fox had a vision to raise $1 for each of the 24 Million Canadians for cancer research, a vision which he well surpassed having raised over $400 million to date. Rick Hansen had a similar vision, to raise money for spinal cord research after he himself was forced into a wheelchair at the age of 15. After raising $26 million, he too was hailed as a national hero.

Terry Fox drew his motivation from the need to increase funding for cancer research after he learned that his chances of surviving were 50% while only two years earlier they would have been 15%. While fundraising to begin his tour he wrote “I am not a dreamer, and I am not saying that this will initiate any kind of definitive answer or cure to cancer. But I believe in miracles. I have to.” Fox ran 26 miles, which is a full marathon, each day for 143 days. Despite the pain caused by his prosthetic leg and from this exhaustive feat, he continued and ran without taking a day off covering 5,300 kilometres.

His marathon of hope was cut short when his cancer returned, this time spreading to his lungs. Miracle or dreamer, Terry Fox is seen as one of the most influential people in Canadian history. While referring to Fox, Pierre Trudeau stated that “It occurs very rarely in the life of a nation that the courageous spirit of one person unites all people in the celebration of his life and in the mourning of his death….We do not think of him as one who was defeated by misfortune but as one who inspired us with the example of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity”

The end of Terry’s presentation at the opening ceremonies was marked by his parents entering with the Olympic flame which had come from a 24 hour torch relay in Vancouver’s downtown core. The flame was passed to 15-year-old Zach Beaumont who lit the cauldron. Beaumont had his leg amputated as a baby and would like snowboarding to be added to the Paralympics so he too can compete. It was a tribute to the future athletes that will compete at the games.

The Paralympics consist of athletes all of whom have overcome significant barriers and challenges. Each one of them has a touching story and the drive and passion to prove to us the profound nature of the human spirit. Although the Paralympic ceremonies were not quite as grandiose as the Olympic ceremonies, they truly sent us home with a feeling of hope and achievement, indeed one inspired many.