A ceremony that stressed the need for unity and inclusion opened the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympic Games today (March 4), with the Russian and Belarusian teams absent having yesterday (March 3) been banned from participating due to the two countries’ involvement in the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The opening ceremony took place at the same Birds Nest stadium with the same spectacular floor graphics and the same dancing volunteers as the that of the Winter Olympic Games exactly one month ago.

Like the Winter Olympics, which came to a close on February 20, the Winter Paralympics already faced the challenges of running during the Covid-19 pandemic and human rights abuse allegations against the host nation, China.

However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began days later on February 24 with the support of Belarus, has put an entirely new perspective on these games and their overarching message of inclusion.

The outright ban of the Russian and Belarusian teams was only announced on the eve of the games after the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) had initially indicated that they would be able to compete only as neutrals under the Paralympic flag, among a swathe of other sanctioning measures.

Indeed, China’s position is more nuanced than most. While its government is not publicly in favor of the war and has signaled its willingness to help broker a ceasefire, it is also close to Russia and has not spoken out as vehemently against the invasion as many others have.

How well do you really know your competitors?

Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.

Company Profile – free sample

Thank you!

Your download email will arrive shortly

Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample

We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below form

By GlobalData
Visit our Privacy Policy for more information about our services, how we may use, process and share your personal data, including information of your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.

Nonetheless, the festivities began with some of the sports to be competed on show, the introduction of the games’ mascot Shuey Rhon Rhon, and the ever-celebratory athletes’ procession, comprising the 46 teams competing.

A particularly poignant moment was the entrance of the Ukrainian team, some with their hands over their hearts or clenched as fists raised in the air.

Yesterday, the president of the Paralympic Committee of Ukraine, Valeriy Sushkevych, had said of their being in attendance: “I can say that this is a miracle that we managed to be here at the Paralympic Games. The easiest way for us would have been to not go to the Paralympics. But we couldn’t give up and not come.”

Following the procession, Andrew Parsons, president of the IPC delivered an impassioned speech, first welcoming participants to the games and then delivering a message of peace.

“I am horrified at what is taking place in the world right now,” he said. “The 21st century is a time for dialogue, not war.

“The Olympic Truce was adopted at the UN General Assembly. It must be observed not broken. Athletes from 46 nations will compete with each other, not against each other. They will showcase the best of humanity. An opponent does not have to be an enemy.

“The Paralympic Movement calls on world authorities to promote peace, understanding, and inclusion.”

Following Parsons’ speech, Chinese President Xi Jingping opened the games and four-time Paralympic champion Li Duan placed the games’ torch into its final position to complete the torch relay.

Over 560 athletes, including a record 138 women, are expected to take part in the games across 78 medal events.