Saturday, March 13, 2010

Paralympic Opening Ceremony

Day 2 of the Paralympic Games

The Paralympic Games opened last night with a moving and memorable ceremony last night. Like their Olympic counterpart, they featured parading athletes, moving speakers, lots of dancing, and a fair amount of singing. These ones, however, placed a particular focus on youth and on the future of the growing Paralympic movement. The theme of the night was "one inspires many, a celebration of ability".

Students Live and Sharing the Dream members, dressed in our Opening Ceremony Ponchos and ready for audience participation!

Visually, two moments from the ceremony stand out. The first, occured when wheelchairs began to roll out from the gate below us, guiding giant balloons, which floated hauntingly overhead. The second was the women who signed a song from the center of BC Place, as flowers and spirals of colour sprung from beneath her.

Giant balloons, float hauntingly overhead

Flowers springing across the floor of BC Place

On a musical note, the high point of the night was when a purple-clad Nikki Yanofsky stepped onto the stage and, in her usual fashion, belted out a beautiful and inspiring melody, accompanied by a youth choir from Vancouver.
Nikki Yanofsky performing at the Paralympic Opening Ceremony

Lastly, the spiritual highlight of the night, undoubtedly, was a tear jerking homage to Terry Fox, ending with his parents carrying the torch into the stadium. Also of note was a portion dedicated to Rick Hansen. Opening and closing ceremonies producer, Patrick Roberge, was quoted earlier in the week by The Province as having remarked that "with national heroes such as Rick Hansen and Terry Fox, Canadians are "incredibly ready" to give their full support to international Paralympians."

The Paralympic Cauldron, surrounded by youth

Paralympic Opening Press Conference

Day 2 of the Paralympic Games

My paralympic experienced kicked off yesterday at Robson Square, fitting, as that was home base during the Olympic games.

Lauren Byrne and I watched the opening press conference there, complete with John Furlong (CEO of VANOC), Ken Melamed (Mayor of Whistler), Sir Philip Craven (President of the Internation Paralympic Committee), Mary McNeil (Minister of State for the Olympics), James Moore (Heritage Minister) and Tim Stevenson (Vancouver City Councillor). Each expressed their excitement at the upcoming games, and the locals offered welcomes, while the visitors exclaimed over the beauty of the host cities.

We had the chance to speak with Ken Melamed after. He described how proud he is of Whistler's accessability, and described the steps they have already to make it so. These included re-evaluating their environment and working to install ramps rather than stairs and remove barriers of any kind.

That being said, "We still have lots of work to do." admitted Mr. Melamed. He continued by describing his goal of making Whistler the most accessible resort in Canada, and, "maybe even North America."

Lastly, he spoke about a special project very close to his heart, Whistler's Accessible Playground, which was just recently completed. The goal of the project is to allow able-bodied and disabled children to play and bond side by side, and eliminate the physical barriers that may prevent potential friendships between them. It features ramps, a Sway Fun Glider accessible even to wheelchair users, and a sensory wall for the visually impaired.

Speaking with Ken Melamed

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Paralympic Fever

11 Days after the Olympic Games
1 Day before the Paralympic Games

It's the eve before the Paralympic Games, and in some ways, I'm just as excited as I was a month ago for the Olympic version - maybe more so.

This time, I'm a bit more prepared for what to expect. I honestly can't wait to return to the crowds at Robson Square, and admire the torch burning once more. In a way, knowing that I'll be skytrain-ing downtown tomorrow for an event is like knowing I'll be coming home.

And what an event I've got tomorrow. I'll be at Robson Square to watch the Torch Celebration, and then over to BC place for Opening Ceremony!

Some quick facts on the Paralympic Games (Courtesy of VANOC) to get you prepared:
- 10 days of Paralympic Games events: March 12-21, 2010
- 64 Oaralympic Winter Games medal events
-1,350 Paralympic Games athletes and officials
-40 Countries participating in Paralympic Winter Games

Opening Ceremony starts at 6:00 tomorrow and will feature a stunning array of performances (with more performers than in the Olympic Opening Ceremony!), aimed at telling the history of the Paralympic Movement and celebrating the idea of "ability".

Monday, March 8, 2010

8 days after the Games

Another great blog to check out. Duff Gibson, a gold medallist in Torino for skeleton, writes about the true Olympic successes.

"Sport at the highest level, at least on the surface, appears to be about winning. It would be easy to assume that at the highest level, sportsmanship and fair play take a back seat to winning but this is clearly not the case. In fact, a great number of the most successful athletes in the world are also the ones who demonstrate the strongest sense of sportsmanship. In other words, although being completely dedicated to winning, they have an awareness of a bigger picture and have a value system that dictates exactly what is and what is not acceptable in terms of making it happen. These athletes have not only succeeded at the highest level but have a greater sense of fulfillment in achieving their success and are more likely to enjoy the process as well. This blog will discuss many of the aspects listed above and hear opinions from a number of highly successful athletes, coaches, sport psychologists and the like. "

Thou dost in us command?

8 days after the Games

A week and one day ago, the streets were singing our national anthem jubilantly, now, the lyrics that we've come to know so well, may shortly undergo a slight alteration. The Governor General announced on March 3rd that parliament will be reviewing the line "In All Thy Son's Command" and proposing to change it to it's original gender-neutral state from a 1809 version, which sang "Thou dost in us command."

This attempt to make the song applicable to all Canadians may seem admirable - but, surprisingly, many seem to be regarding the potential change with a shake of the head. Some point out that if we remove the gender bias, we should also attack the Christian bias. For others, "thou dost in us command" is a bit too much of a tongue twister to adjust to. Most, however, seem to think that the effort is a sad excuse for stepping up for women's rights, when there are so many more important issues (wage disparity, for example?) that should be tackled.

In my opinion, the government could have picked a more reasonable time to raise the issue. This is one of the time periods where Canadian pride has been the highest, and we are embracing our traditions and anthem as they are. Secondly, with the critisism the government was under just before the Games for closing parliament, this public effort to change the anthem can easily come accross as an attempt to distract the public.

However, when it comes down to it, who does it hurt? The symbolic equalization of genders shows Canada and the rest of the world that women are equals, and until that is openly and formally acknowledged, then how can we expect the real issues to be seriously dealt with?