A colourful parade of nations made the opening ceremonies of the V Parapan American Games in Toronto on August 7 a grand event. Joyful delegations of athletes, coaches and assistants mixed with artistic, creative segments to highlight the dreams, emotion and rhythm of the 28 participating countries.
Everyone from Aruba with its three athletes, to the large delegations of Brazil, the U.S. and Canada paraded proudly on the track of the York University Athletics Stadium.
The Cubans, led by their flag-bearer Yunidis Castillo, once again looked elegant. They bore the distinguished uniforms and carried themselves with the same confidence as their compatriots at the XVII Pan American Games one month ago.
The ceremony began at 7 pm with the entrance of the Governor-General of Canada, David Johnston and the President of the Paralympic Committee of the Americas, José Luis Campo.
Saad Rafi, CEO of the Games Organizing Committee congratulated the athletes, volunteers and others for their effort, commitment and spirit in helping to make these the biggest Parapan Am Games in history.
Paralympic Committee President Campo expressed his conviction that the coming period will be the most important ever for the development of paralympic sport in the Americas. He also recognized the assistance provided to the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games organizers by the City of Toronto and the governments of Ontario and Canada.
The Games were then declared open by Governor General David Johnston.
The program that followed combined traditional protocols and cultural segments — “The Migration of Honour” (acknowledging the First Nations and Métis of the region), “The Dove of Peace,” “Celebration of Unity” and a concert “To Play,” put on by the young up and coming pop music star Francesco Yates.
The oaths of the athletes, coaches and judges were read out by paralympian Benoît Huot, coach Sébastien Travers and judge Gabriel Assis, respectively.
The program concluded with the “Journey of Valour.” Several prominent Canadian athletes, including war veterans Sergeant Steve Daniel and Corporal Dominic Laroque, appeared with the Parapan Am flame. Multiple medal winner Chantal Peticlerc lit the cauldron as the final torch-bearer.