Well what can I say about the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games so far…
Well, let’s start at the beginning, shall we? The Opening Ceremony was one of the most incredible and powerful things I have ever had the opportunity and pleasure of watching. The way it began was just epic when a man in a wheelchair propelled himself down a 50 meter ramp to then go flying through the air – just something else. This was then followed by a series of dance numbers including one by a blind pair who performed beautifully in front of a giant screen. This is when the party really got started.
The athletes then came piling in country by country in alphabetical order, but by their Portuguese name (to many people’s confusion). The athletes were met by rapturous applause as they paraded around the stadium in their nations’ colours. Each country brought in a jigsaw piece and they were put together in the middle of the Maracana Stadium. Once the final country, Brazil, entered the stadium the final bit of the puzzle was laid to reveal an enormous heart which began to beat and flow around the Maracana and the line ‘everyone has the same heart’ was projected onto the stadium floor.
After another dance number – this time between female double leg amputeed dancing with a huge 10ft robot arm – the lighting of the Paralympic Flame began.
Four Torch bearers had the pleasure of carrying the Torch from the stadium door to the Cauldron in a relay formation. The second runner was an elderly lady who is officiating for athletics. Around half way through her stretch she had a stumble and fell and dropped the Torch. This was one of the most heart breaking and totally amazing moments I have every witnessed. When it became clear the lady was ok and was going to carry on, the stadium went into full-on applause with a standing ovation; it was an amazing moment that just proves we are all human but wee stumbles in the road should not stop us from completing our journey and our dreams.
The torch was then passed on to a former Brazilian athlete who is visually impaired and was running with a guide.
The final athlete to carry the flame was also a former Brazilian athlete who finished off the torch relay in dramatic style when eventually he got to the stairs which lead up to where the Cauldron was – at this point I should mention this athlete is in a wheelchair. The stadium was looking around as if to say well this is a bit awkward at the Paralympic Games but just as we were all wondering what was going to happen the stairs started to shake and move and out of nowhere the stairs suddenly had a ramp carved into them which he proceeded to climb. When he reached the top of this incredible ramp he lit the Paralympic Cauldron with his torch and the Games were officially opened.
In the morning of Fay 1 I was lucky enough to get tickets to be in the audience of the Channel 4 TV show The Last Leg live from out here in Rio. It was a great experience and the guys on the show are genuinely so nice and friendly.
When I walked into the Olympic Park later that day I was totally blown away by how busy it was, the worries that had been floating about a few weeks ago that tickets weren’t selling were quickly gone when I walked into the Velodrome, and this is where my first day of sporting action started at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games where I witnessed GB’s first three gold medals of the Games, including Dame Sarah Story beating her GB team mate in the final of the woman’s 3000m in dramatic form when she caught Crystal Lane in just 2000m to clinch the Gold.
I then quickly moved across to the Aquatics Centre where the atmosphere was electric and managed to catch Ollie Hynd collecting GB’s fourth gold of the day. This was quickly followed by our fifth from Bethany Firth in the S14 100m Backstroke. I also saw my friend and fellow Scotsman Andrew Mullen collect his first medal of the Games which was a Bronze in the S5 200m freestyle.
What will Day 2 bring…?