Winter Paralympics begin with opening ceremony

Owen Pick holds Union Flag

Owen Pick gets his flag-bearing practice in early Credit GETTY IMAGES

While the North and South Korean athletes stole the scene at the Olympics' opening ceremony when they marched together under a unified flag, the same did not happen at the Paralympics.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in officially declared the biggest Winter Paralympics in history open, before a show of fireworks lit up the night sky above the stadium.

The opening ceremony took place on Friday at the city's Olympic stadium.

North Korea's athletes took centre-stage as the Winter Paralympics began in South Korea on Friday with a glittering ceremony, after a rapid round of diplomacy hit dizzying heights.

All four were members of the gold medal-winning 2014 Paralympic Sled Hockey Team.

Unlike at the recent Winter Olympics, South Korea and North Korea marched separately, after failing to resolve differences about the nature of the proposed Korean unification flag. "Paralympic sport not only changes lives, but also changes the world", Parsons said.

In addition to the 48 nations, athletes from Russian Federation will also take part under the banner of "neutral Paralympic athletes" after their country failed to satisfy the International Paralympic Committee over doping concerns.

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Andrew Parsons, president of the IPC, said in a statement that North Korea's presence was a pivotal moment for the Paralympic movement and that he hoped that "the focus can now be on the performances of Para athletes on the field of play, not the politics off it". He got into sports by playing wheelchair basketball in 2009 and also played para ice hockey in the past.

The situation is similar to last month's Paralympic Games, when 169 Russians were allowed to compete.

21-year-old alpine skier Momoka Muraoka led the Japanese delegation at the opening ceremony. Their programmes have helped a number of athletes from Asia to attend the Games, including for the first time athletes from Tajikistan and North Korea.

Winter Paralympics have been held since 1976.

Team Japan athletes wave miniature flags during the opening ceremony.

USA snowboarder Brenna Huckaby, who has a prosthetic leg, was the first female para-athlete to model a swimsuit for the United States magazine Sports Illustrated.

"We were still negotiating right up until the very last moment".

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