PyeongChang Paralympics: the “Record-breaking Games”

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On Mar. 9, the fervor following the closing ceremony of the PyeongChang Olympics was soon directed to the opening ceremony of the Paralympics. For nine days, the Paralympics hosted six different winter sports: para alpine skiing, para biathlon, para cross-country skiing, para ice hockey, para snowboard, and wheelchair curling.

The 2018 Paralympic Heritage Flame was lit one week before the PyeongChang Olympics starting from Stoke Mandeville, the first venue and inspiration of the Paralympics in 1984. From there, the torch was virtually passed to Seoul Island and traveled throughout Anyang, Nonsan, Gochang, and Cheongdo. The total distance covered was 2,018 kilometers, representing the year 2018.

Although Russia ranked first with 30 gold medals in the Sochi Paralympics, this year, the US performed the highest with 13 gold medals, 15 silver medals, and 8 bronze medals. Labeled as the “Record-breaking Games,” the 2018 Paralympics highlighted not the prosperity of a single country, but the multiple records broken throughout the nine-day event.

The topping of charts started with the number of tickets sold, with 89 percent of the 310,000 tickets sold worldwide by the time the opening ceremony commenced, which was three times that of the 2006 Turin Olympics. The 2018 Paralympics also set the record for participation, with the most athletes from the most number of countries in history. Furthermore, Great Britain, the Neutral Paralympic Athletes, Canada, and many other nations broke individual records, making each and every game more worthwhile.

Nonetheless, even the 2018 Paralympics could not entirely avoid challenges. Unlike the spirit of the games, the physical accommodations provided to the athletes were insufficient and even burdensome. Many Paralympics athletes, especially those dependent on wheelchairs, complained about the uncomfortable environment they had to face, including small bathrooms, doorways, pathways, and sidewalks, as well as steep stairs and restrooms without any handrails or back support. Such qualifications outlined the flaws of the event, despite its statistical accomplishments.

“The heart and the desire that the athletes have truly makes the Paralympics special,” said Tim Munro, Activity Coordinator. “With all the media outlets involved in the 2018 Paralympics, people are starting to recognize the effort and determination and start to invest more money in the games. With money comes exposure, and with exposure comes interest. Hearing counts from the athletes themselves, the Paralympics are clearly going in the right direction.”

During the closing ceremony held on Mar. 18 that successfully concluded the 12th Paralympics, the symbolic Paralympic flag was passed on from PyeongChang to Beijing, the city hosting the 2022 Olympics and Paralympics. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) promised to, once again, cooperate with each other in building the following two international events until at least 2032, with stable funding provided for the prospects of the Olympics and Paralympics.

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Andie Kim

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