The after party has begun. The XV Paralympic Games in Rio opened at the Maracana Stadium with a carnival atmosphere on Wednesday.
Seventeen days after the Olympics closed, with the Paralympics embroiled in the worst build-up in its 56-year history, Brazil belatedly got into the Paralympic mood.
London 2012 was declared a triumph of the human spirit; Paralympic competitors considered sports stars first and foremost.
It was hoped to be a watershed moment for the Paralympic movement. But the incompetence of Rio’s organising committee – using Paralympic funds as contingency for the Olympics – left the Games feeling like an afterthought.
Despite the slow uptake of tickets, 1,459 days since the London Paralympics closed on September 9, 2012, the 78,000-seat Maracana was full on Brazil’s Independence Day.
Paralympians describe the Olympics as the warm-up; their own inspiring festival as the After Party.
And Rio, Brazil and the world must prepare to be amazed over the next 11 days.
More than 4,300 athletes from 159 nations, plus two refugees in an independent team, are prepared to perform to the peak of their physical capabilities and change perceptions of what is possible.
It is the biggest Paralympics yet – in terms of athletes participating – and the greatest performances are expected to take place in Rio.
Remember the names. Brazilians will cheer swimmer Daniel Dias, athletes Alan Oliveira and Terezinha Guilhermina.
American Tatyana McFadden will go for seven gold medals and others will emerge.