It's Lit!: the Rio 2016 Paralympic Opening Ceremony

Reasons to journal when you travel:

1. You can look back on your adventures in some detail whenever you want!

2. You can wait six months to blog about your adventures because the details have been preserved for you.

Ha, whoops. I was in Rio more than six months ago and I'm only now sitting down to continue blogging about it. But I finally gave this ol' blog the facelift it so desperately needed (and I'm in love with it), and it totally re-motivated me. So here we are!

I won't dedicate a post to every single day I spent or event I attended in Rio. But the opening ceremony definitely warrants its own post because, hello, bucket list! And my journal entry for that day begins as follows:

"Today was so long but so good and my ears are ringing and I'm exhausted but so jazzed."

So that kind of sums up a day I'd been waiting for my entire life!

To get a little longer in the tooth, each country's delegation at the Games got a pre-determined number of press tickets for the ceremony, and we had enough for staff to use. So I laid claim to one without thinking twice!

Actually, that's a lie. I did end up thinking twice about it that afternoon. Since we had press tickets, we were going to be sitting at tabled seats in the stadium, which meant that we would be able to work. One of my daily duties was to send out a sort of newsletter after all events had concluded each day, and that night I'd be doing it for the first time. As the afternoon wore on I was getting nervous about putting it together at an event, and by myself (my boss wasn't going to the ceremony). I literally had to talk myself out of bailing and remind myself that I'd regret it forever if I didn't go because of nerves. Thankfully that self pep-talk worked! (Related: that happens to me before just about every amazing major life event I've ever had. I panic and briefly think about bailing, and then it turns out to be one of the best things I ever did. So that moment of fear has turned into a pretty good omen for me! Go figure.)

The group of us that ended up going to the ceremony together was entirely Games newbies. Everyone that had worked a Games before stayed behind, and everyone that had never worked a Games before wanted to go. I still find that pretty amusing, but I 100% guarantee that, should I be lucky enough to work more Games in the future, I will go to every ceremony I have the opportunity to go to. But it was actually really cool to go with other people who were also experiencing everything for the first time. We all matched each others' enthusiasm which, as someone who was extremely enthusiastic about literally everything, I greatly appreciated. :)

So bright-eyed and bushy-tailed!

Immediately upon getting there, we wandered around taking pictures of things. At one point in the stadium, we ran into two Olympic Broadcast Service employees that had given some of us a tour of one of the Olympic Park venues the day before (so cool!) and gave pins to some volunteers. I'd been asked for pins numerous times since arriving and this was the first time I'd had any to give, so seeing a girl clutching one and saying "preciosa!" after I gave it to her was really great. You hear about pin trading at Games, but it was another thing entirely to actually experience it!

That guy is my hero.

As for the ceremony itself, it was... flawless? perfect? life-changing? To quote from my journal again (how self-aggrandizing is that?!), "there's a human element to the Paralympics that's so special, and I'm so happy this ceremony tapped into that and ended up being so beautiful."

I also handily compiled a list of moments/things that made me teary-eyed:

+ The parade of nations was led by the team of refugee athletes.

+ The Paralympic flag was carried out into the stadium by eight pairs of disabled kids with their parents; the parents were each wearing this sort of contraption that held their kid to them, so these kids that couldn't walk could feel as though they were walking. When they finished with the flag, they all waved to the crowd and the place went NUTS.

+ One of the torch bearers was an older woman that walked with difficulty and a cane. She fell as she was walking with the torch but was helped up and finished her leg unassisted. And again, the place was going nuts.

+ Team USA's entrance. (I mean, obviously.)

+ The lighting of the cauldron.

+ As each delegation marched into the stadium, they carried a giant puzzle piece. The pieces were all put together to eventually form a giant, beating human heart in the middle of the stadium. It was SO COOL and so symbolic and holy cow do I live for that stuff.

A man in a wheelchair rolled down that incline and catapulted through the "O"!
 If you squint, you can kind of see that this is Team USA.
 It's lit!
I made an attempt at a ceremony selfie. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

And that work I was so stressed about? Totally a non-issue, despite being slightly overwhelming. I wrote a story about the ceremony, put the newsletter together (with some help from a fellow ceremony-goer, ironically, and lots of emails with my boss) and still managed to thoroughly enjoy myself. The downside of having to do the newsletter is that I was the last person working that night (and every other night), but luckily the group I was with was willing to wait a significant amount of time after the ceremony for me to finish up.

By the time I was done, the stadium was basically empty. But as we were leaving, we somehow ended up in an elevator with one of the handful of other people still there. And this happened:

He had me smushed against the back wall, his backpack basically up my nose. A coworker tried to sneak a picture of it, and the flash went off. LOL, beautiful.

And then we took a couple of media shuttles back to our hotel and, despite it being an extremely late night and knowing it would be an early morning, I cracked my journal open and hoo boy am I glad I did!

The full ceremony is on YouTube. You should watch it (yes, you). It's wonderful and I still can't quite believe I was there in person and I'm going to treasure this experience for the rest of my life.

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