Twelve days after the closing of the Sochi Winter Olympics, the 11th Winter Paralympic Games opened here on Friday night with a thrilling and inspiring ceremony.
President Vladimir Putin declared the Games open at the Fisht Olympic Stadium following a speech by International Paralympic Committee (IPC) chief Philip Craven.
Craven promised the global Paralympic sport fans with high performance sport here in Sochi "featuring amazing feats of endurance that will surprise you, tremendous skills that will excite you and examples of human endeavor that will inspire you."
Dmitry Chernyshenko, President of the Sochi Organizing Committee, said that the Paralympics have changed people's attitude "to those close to us and to ourselves."
"It's time for the athletes to come to the front, it is time for the athletes to break down barriers both on and off the field of play," he noted.
The two-hour show featured a cast of 2500 volunteers and 140 disabled actors performing music, dances and songs under the theme of "breaking the ice."
Along with the journey of firebird, a Russian fairytale figure symbolizing light and luck, 40,000 spectators watched a spectacular show which praised the strength of human spirit and the endeavors to break barriers.
At the end of the show, six torch bearers took part in the final stage of the torch relay. The Paralympic Flame arrived in Sochi on Wednesday for the final leg of its journey before the opening ceremony.
Olesya Vladykina, two-time Paralympic champion and Sergey Shilov, six-time Paralympic champion carried the torch towards the small cauldron outside the Fisht Stadium. It then triggered the lighting of the Main Cauldron in the Olympic Park, symbolizing the beginning of the Sochi Games.
The Paralympic Torch Relay, started on February 26 and ended on March 7 at the Stadium, was held across Russia in 45 cities and attended by over 1,500 torchbearers. Its global Relay also has one leg in the British town of Stoke Mandeville, where Paralympic Movement was born.
As Chernyshenko said, the Flame "reminds us of the Paralympic ideals and values: courage, determination, equality and inspiration."
China has a small delegation of ten athletes who will participate in wheelchair curling and cross-country skiing during the Sochi Games. The country, a relative new comer in the Paralympic movement, made its debut at Salt Lake City in 2002, but has yet to win a medal in its previous Paralympic appearances.
The Sochi Paralympic Games are slated for March 7-16 with 72 medal events across five sports to be contested, namely alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, ice sledge hockey and wheelchair curling.