The 2022 Winter Paralympics in Beijing officially opened Friday night (4/3) local time after a few days of drama. All Russian athletes were sent home while the Ukrainian team painstakingly managed to escape the war zone to arrive in China.
“It is a miracle that we managed to reach the Paralympic venues,” said the head of the Ukrainian delegation, Valerii Sushkevych, at a press conference ahead of the Games.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which took place shortly after the Winter Olympics ended in Beijing, shook the world. And the world of sports has also been affected.
The Paralympic organizing committee initially announced that Russian and Belarusian athletes would be allowed to compete in Beijing, but later changed its decision one day before the opening. The committee repatriated athletes from the two countries on the grounds that their presence created tension in the Athlete Village.
Sushkevych said it took four days for the entire Ukrainian team to reach Beijing. He admitted that he had slept on the floor of the bus because he had back problems during the last two days of his trip across Europe.
“We went through a lot of obstacles on the road,” he said. “Many members of our team had to flee during the bombing and shooting.”
The Paralympics opened with a ceremony at the “Bird’s Nest” National Stadium. Chinese President Xi Jinping and International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons attended the opening ceremony. The disabled sporting event will close on March 13. (ab/uh)