Thursday, 30 August 2012

Paralympics 2012: Opening Ceremony

Opening ceremony for the 2012 London Paralympics
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Daily Telegraph: "It would, (Hawking) promised, be an evening of exploration, and (he) urged the audience to “look up at the stars”. “Ever since the dawn of civilisation, people have craved an understanding of the underlying order of the world,” he said. “Why it is as it is and why it exists at all.” And thus — with a choreographed Big Bang almost loud enough to disturb the peace on the surface of the Moon — kicked off the brightest, busiest lecture he can ever have conducted . . .

 . . . After Caliban’s speech about an isle full of glorious noise had featured in the Olympic opening and closing extravaganzas, there was something beautifully apt about Miranda’s words in the context of the Paralympics: “O wonder! How many goodly creatures there are here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world that has such people in’t!”  . . . Which is why the most symbolic moment of last night’s ceremony was when Sir Ian McKellen, playing Prospero, encouraged Miranda to fly upwards and smash through a glass ceiling. That is what millions of us are going enjoy over the next 10 days: the sight of blind footballers, wheelchair athletes and one-legged swimmers smashing glass ceilings as they confound our assumptions about what disability entails." Read the rest of the article here.

Guardian: "It was a ceremony of ideas. It was a brilliant stroke by the artistic directors to latch upon the theme of enlightenment, and to link it to two apparently quite different notions: a hoped-for lifting of prejudice against disabled people; and the 18th-century onrush of scientific knowledge and quest for the rights of man. The two prongs of this idea found their perfect embodiment in the person of Stephen Hawking, whose words urged the audience: "Look at the stars and not down at your feet … Be curious." This was a ceremony about the life of the mind as much as the body. "Look" was the keynote. At one point, the phalanxes of dancing, umbrella-wielding volunteers rendered themselves into the shape of a giant eye. Just as the intellectual enlightenment was about empirical knowledge, rational gathering of information and observation, so, the ceremony seemed to suggest, the only barrier to disabled people's fulfilling their potential was one of perception. Look again, was the message. Think again." Read the rest of the article here.

Daily Beast: "The genesis of the Games goes back to British casualties of D-Day and a Jewish doctor named Ludwig Guttmann, a refugee from the Nazis . . . (who) revolutionized the treatment of patients who had been swathed in plaster and left to rot in bed. Against fierce resistance and rooted prejudice, he got them out of bed and into the gym and the swimming pool. And when he found a group of them playing an improvised game of wheelchair hockey using upturned walking sticks, he saw that their competitive urge was as strong as ever and dragooned them into learning javelin-hurling and archery. The first, tiny prototype of the Paralympics was held on the grounds of the hospital in 1948, shadowing the Olympics held in London at the same time . . .

. . . .This year, the British government has pumped the Paralympics . . . the cruel irony that it is this same government that has taken an axe to welfare provisions for the disabled, slashing their benefits and aiming to force them back into work. Nor has it gone unnoticed that the French firm Atos, one of the corporate sponsors of the Games, is the same firm that is testing the disabled population for their fitness for work. Half of Britain’s disabled, meanwhile, are already below the poverty line." Read the rest of the article here.

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