Vladimir Putin inaugurates Paralympic Games in Sochi

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Sochi 2014
Paralympic Games in Sochi started Reuters

With a colourful inaugural ceremony and amid much fanfare, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin inaugurated the Paralympic Games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

The game will continue for the next 9 days where 547 athletes will compete across five sports categories.

The Australian team represented their country with 9 athletes along with two sighted guides.

The opening ceremony was held at Friday night, featuring more than 2,500 performers from the Krasnoder region of Russia.

The theme of the ceremony, "Breaking the Ice" is targeted to reignite the spirit of Russia.

On lighting the torch, the president said, "I declare the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games open."

Further, Sir Philip Craven, president of the International Paralympics Committee stated that Russia witnessed a major transformation since the idea to host the game was planned at Sochi.

He said "Thirty-four years ago, when the old Soviet Union declined the opportunity to stage the 1980 Paralympic Games in Moscow, the prospect of Russia staging its first Paralympic Games was nothing but a dream".

The opening ceremony started with 126 performers dressed in red, blue and white marching in a synchronised fashion, forming a wave of the national flag of Russia.

The Pan-Russian Choir performed a cappella version of Russia's National Anthem followed by competing athletes paraded through the stadium.

Six-time Paralympic champion for cross-country skiing, Sergey Shilov and two-time champion Olesya Vladykina lit the Paralympic cauldron to mark the beginning of the event.

ABC Network is slated to broadcast the game from March 10. Moreover a daily highlights program have also been organized, hosted by Amanda Shalala of ABC News 24 and presenter of ABC Sports Darren Boyd will be telecasted from 10:30 - 11:00 am (AEDT) and repeat telecast at 6:00 - 6:30 pm (AEDT) from March 8-17.

Mr Putin is hopeful that the Paralympics game will also ease the tension between Russia and Ukraine over the ongoing Crimea crisis.

Few hours before the start of opening ceremony, Ukraine's team for Sochi confirmed athletes will join for the event. However, they expressed their concern about the current situation in Crimea.

As Craven said, "We are delighted by Ukraine's decision as we want sport to prevail and a full complement of teams to compete in what we are confident will be a fantastic Paralympic Winter Games."

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