|Scenes from opening ceremony of the Athens Paralympics. Bottom photo: the final torch bearer in the eight-day relay for the Paralympics. (ANA Photos)|| |
(ATR) The caldron in the Athens Olympic Stadium is burning once again, this time for the 11-day celebration of the 12th Paralympic Games.
A crowd of about 70,000 came to the stadium for tonight?s opening ceremony, also broadcast to 40 countries.
The official statistics for these Games are record-breaking: 136 nations with 3,837 competitors in 19 sports. The end of a participation fee for athletes and free housing in the Paralympic Village is credited for the increase in numbers over Sydney.
The Paralympics are also the first managed under the same administrative structure as the Olympics, a practice which will be followed for future Games.
Events will take place in many of the same venues used for the Olympics: 15 of the sports on the program are Paralympic versions of events on the Olympic program.
Ticket sales goals have been modest. So far 300,000 of a targeted 400,000 tickets have been sold.
Some traffic restrictions have been put back into place near Paralympic venues and on some key roadways. A hefty 15
3 euro fine applies to lane violators.
While much of the preparation in Athens has been done as a result of the Olympics, the particular needs of the Paralympics have led to 18.5 million euros of improvements, including a lift at the Acropolis.
?Athens has become a more accessible city?, said Athens 2004 President Gianna Angelopoulos in opening ceremony remarks to the Paralympic athletes.
?After you leave, Athens will remain a better city for all of its citizens, and we thank you for showing us the way.?