One Inspires Many: a celebration of ability, courage and the human spirit at
Opening Ceremony for the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games

WHISTLER, VANCOUVER, March 12 /CNW/ - Tonight the world's best winter Paralympic athletes were welcomed to Vancouver and Whistler in a ceremony that delighted all and set the stage for nine days of awe-inspiring sport.

More than 500 Paralympic athletes from 44 countries were warmly welcomed to the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games as they paraded into BC Place Stadium to cheers from thousands of performers and an audience ready to celebrate their achievements. With the theme of "One Inspires Many," the Opening Ceremony was a celebration of ability, courage and the human spirit.

Close to 5000 performers - mostly volunteers - participated in the show, which will be televised across Canada on CTV and RIS Info Sports on Saturday, March 13th at 2:00 p.m. local time in each market, with the exception of Manitoba, where the show will be televised at 1:30 p.m. The show was also telecast live on outdoor big-screen televisions at the City of Vancouver's LiveCity celebration site.

A lone herald trumpeter started the evening with a salute to those in stadium. Joined by the Naden Band of Maritime Forces Pacific, the 15th Regiment - Royal Canadian Artillery Band and 150 Vancouver-area youth musicians, the single trumpeter's performance evolved into a full orchestra's tribute to the Paralympic Movement's early origins.

Next, seven youth hosts - Aryana Engineer, Kamran Engineer, Eve O'Dea, Valin Shinyei, Melody Choi, Joseph Anctil, and Olyvia Olson-Brooks - took center stage in English, French and sign language to welcome the Paralympians to Vancouver/Whistler, British Columbia and Canada.

The youth hosts also announced the arrival of Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, who, as she took the floor, was surrounded by hundreds of children representing Canada's rich cultural heritage in the formation of a maple leaf. In a duet of sorts, blind vocalist Terry Kelly, originally from Newfoundland and Labrador and a Paralympian himself, sang O Canada while Mari Klassen of BC, signed the anthem in American Sign Language.

Audrey Rivers, a Squamish First Nation elder, then relayed the story of a powerful guardian spirit who protects the land, the water and all creatures. Surrounded by a story blanket and hundreds of children, Sumi, the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games mascot was revealed. An animal spirit who lives in the mountains of British Columbia, Sumi wears the hat of the orca whale, flies with the wings of the thunderbird and runs on the strong legs of the black bear. As a guardian spirit, Sumi inspires everyone to discover their inner strength and ability.

Following the parade of athletes - where more than 1,300 athletes and officials were welcomed to the Games, a sole performer - Luca "Lazylegz" Patuelli captured the spirit of the Paralympic Movement in an unexpected, awe-inspiring breakdance performance and finished by engaging the audience in the creation of the largest flash mob in history.

In a further tribute to ability, Martin Deschamps, Quebec's award-winning singer and songwriter born with deformities of all four limbs, rocked the stadium accompanied by wheelchair painters "painting" the floor in a graffiti-inspired art collage.

Extreme athletes with disabilities then wowed the audience in a giant skatepark. Toronto pop artist Fefe Dobson sang as Aaron "Wheelz" Fotheringham and five other athletes performed a series of high-energy tricks and manoeuvers. In 2006, "Wheelz" gained worldwide attention when he landed the first 360-degree wheelchair back flip.

As the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) flag was raised, the X Paralympic Winter Games were declared open. "Let us now turn to why we are all here this evening - the athletes. It is you who redefine the possible," said IPC President Sir Philip Craven. "You succeed by focusing your minds, driving your bodies and achieving what many would consider the impossible."

"From coast to coast to coast, these Games will inspire greatness," said John Furlong, Chief Executive Officer of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC). "We will witness stories of personal triumph and remarkable human perseverance. What you see over the next nine days will leave an impression on your lives forever."

As the Opening Ceremony drew to a close, Krista Broderick, a young hearing impaired dancer who has been performing on stage since the tender age of three, offered the simple message Welcome in sign language, accompanied by Adrian Anantawan, a concert violinist born without his right hand. As one inspires many, audience members signed back the message Inspire. With this invitation, Montreal's sixteen-year-old Canadian singing sensation Nikki Yanofsky sang together with the 2010 Inspiration Choir.

Paralympic Oaths were taken by Official Linda Kirton, Deputy Chief Umpire for Curling from Abbotsford, BC and Hervé Lord, veteran team Canada sledge hockey player from St-Pamphile, Québec. Following this, the late Canadian jazz great Oscar Peterson's Hymn to Freedom set the stage for a tribute to Canadians who have inspired many the world over. Rick Hansen, Canada's Man in Motion, and the late Terry Fox, who aspired to run across Canada in his Marathon of Hope raising money for cancer research, were recognized for their heroic contributions and stories of pure inspiration.

Yukon's singer/songwriter Manfred Janssen performed High Wind, signaling the arrival of the Paralympic Flame. Following a 10-day journey around Canada including 24 consecutive hours from March 11-12, the Paralympic Flame entered the stadium and made its way around a ring of torchbearers, accompanied by thousands of lights from the audience. In a nod to the hopes and dreams of all future Paralympians, the Paralympic Cauldron was lit by 15-year-old Zach Beaumont, an avid snowboarder from Delta, BC who hopes to one day compete for Canada in the Paralympic Winter Games.

In Vancouver, the external cauldron near the waterfront was lit at the same time and will remain lit until the closing of the Paralympic Games. The same security perimeter as was in place for the Olympic Games remains in place as the International Broadcast Center remains an active venue. Rooftop viewing from the adjacent building will be made available to the public during daylight hours. In Whistler, home to two major competition venues, the Whistler Paralympic village and the location of the closing Ceremony, the cauldron will also be lit on March 12.

The Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Games run from March 12-21 with sport events taking place at four competition venues in Vancouver/Whistler. The Vancouver-based Paralympic Winter Games Opening Ceremony marks not only one of the largest audiences in Paralympic Winter Games history but also the first time that the Opening Ceremony has been held indoors.

About VANOC

VANOC is responsible for the planning, organizing, financing and staging of the XXI Olympic Winter Games and the Paralympic Winter Games in 2010. The 2010 Olympic Winter Games were staged in Vancouver and Whistler from February 12 to 28, 2010. Vancouver and Whistler will host the Paralympic Winter Games from March 12 to 21, 2010. Visit www.vancouver2010.com.

About PRP

PRP Inc. is a live entertainment and show production company that specializes in creating spectacular, large-scale shows and events. Based out of Vancouver, BC, PRP's award-winning team boast more than 22 years of high-profile international events and entertainment production. Visit www.prpconnect.com.

SOURCE VANCOUVER ORGANIZING COMMITTEE FOR THE 2010 OLYMPIC AND PARALYMPIC WINTER GAMES

For further information: For further information: Media Contact: VANOC Communications, Tel: (604) 403-1611, E-mail: mediarelations@vancouver2010.com

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VANCOUVER ORGANIZING COMMITTEE FOR THE 2010 OLYMPIC AND PARALYMPIC WINTER GAMES

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