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Largest Winter Paralympics to kick off in PyeongChang Friday

All Headlines 10:51 March 08, 2018

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, March 8 (Yonhap) -- After hosting a successful Winter Olympic Games last month, the South Korean alpine town of PyeongChang is set to deliver another inspiring sporting festivity, this time featuring athletes with disabilities.

The PyeongChang Winter Paralympic Games will kick off its 10-day campaign on Friday with the opening ceremony scheduled at 8 p.m. The event featuring multiple winter sports will emphasize inspiration, determination, courage and equality.

The 12th Winter Paralympic Games in PyeongChang, some 180 kilometers east of Seoul, will be the first Paralympics in South Korea since Seoul 1988. It is also the largest Winter Paralympics ever in terms of participation -- 570 athletes from 49 nations have registered to participate -- according to the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games (POCOG).

South Korea's ice sledge hockey players for the PyeongChang Paralympic Winter Games form a circle at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on March 6, 2018. (Yonhap)

One of the participating countries is North Korea, which will make its first Winter Paralympics appearance. Like at the Olympics, Russian athletes will compete as neutrals due to a doping scandal, participating under the name of "Neutral Paralympic Athletes."

The games will use the same facilities as the Winter Olympics as well as the same supporting staff. More than 6,000 volunteers will be ready to help athletes and visitors like they did at the Olympics.

The opening and closing ceremonies, as well as most snow sports, will be staged in PyeongChang, while alpine skiing events will be contested in Jeongseon, 215 kilometers east of Seoul. Gangneung, a coastal city in Gangwon Province, will host all ice sports during the Paralympics.

Four venues will stage events in six sports across 15 disciplines with a record 80 gold medals up for grabs. Among them, 78 gold medals will be offered in four snow sports -- para alpine skiing, para snowboard, para biathlon and para cross-country skiing. Two ice sports -- para ice hockey and wheelchair curling -- will offer one gold medal each.

South Korea is sending its largest Winter Paralympics delegation with 36 athletes and 47 officials. The host nation has set out to collect one gold, one silver and two bronze medals to finish inside the top 10.

Three "agitos" forming the emblem of the Paralympic Games are displayed between the PyeongChang Paralympics mascot Bandabi (R) and the PyeongChang Olympics mascot Soohorang at Gangneung Station in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on March 6, 2018. (Yonhap)

South Korea has so far collected only two silver medals in the past seven Winter Paralympic Games.

Alpine skier Han Sang-min became the first South Korean to claim a Winter Paralympic medal in 2002, when he took silver in giant slalom LW12 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The national wheelchair curling team also won silver at the 2010 Vancouver Paralympics.

With home-field advantage, South Korea will first aim to collect its first ever gold medal in the Winter Paralympics. Para Nordic skier Sin Eui-hyun, para alpine skier Yang Jae-rim and the wheelchair curling and para ice hockey teams are considered medal contenders for South Korea at the PyeongChang Games.

At the opening ceremony, the world will see another historic moment like viewers saw at the PyeongChang Olympics. Also for the first time at the Paralympic Games, South Korea and North Korea will march into the main stadium together. They will walk in behind the Korean Unification Flag -- a blue Korean Peninsula against a white background.

North Korea accepted a special invitation from the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and decided to send a 24-member delegation that includes two sit-skiers who will compete in cross-country skiing at the PyeongChang Paralympics.

South Korean athletes and officials for the PyeongChang Winter Paralympic Games pose for a photo after a welcome ceremony at the athletes' village in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, on March 6, 2018. (Yonhap)

The opening ceremony will also see the end of the torch relay that began last Friday. The flame for the PyeongChang Paralympics was lit in five South Korean cities and counties -- Jeju, Anyang, Nonsan, Gochang and Cheongdo. They were joined by three other flames -- a flame from Stoke Mandeville in Britain, the birthplace of the Paralympics; a flame representing the 1988 Seoul Paralympics; and a digitally created flame -- on Saturday in Seoul to form one united flame.

The Paralympic flame traveled a total of 2,018 kilometers, a figure that includes the distance between Seoul and the five cities and counties where the flames were ignited. A total of 800 torchbearers participated in groups of two to complete the 2,018 km distance. The torchbearers included Lee Yong-ro, the first disabled South Korean to become a sports professor; Kim Yu-na, the former Olympic figure skating champion; and Yun Sung-bin, who won the gold medal in men's skeleton at the PyeongChang Olympics.

The opening ceremony will be presented under the theme of "Passion moves us," which highlights Paralympians’ passion to perform beyond their limitations and use their energy as an inspiration to achieve unity and harmony around the world.

The two-hour opening ceremony will be orchestrated by Lee Moon-tae, the president of the Korean Traditional Performing Arts Foundation who previously produced various entertainment programs at the Korean Broadcasting System, one of the largest broadcasters in the country.

South Korean skeleton slider Yun Sung-bin (2nd from L) holds the torch during the torch relay for the PyeongChang Paralympic Games in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province, on March 5, 2018. (Yonhap)

kdon@yna.co.kr
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