KUALA LUMPUR: It was a show of grit, a show of strength, a show of style – and it was indeed a breathtaking show. The 9th Asean Para Games started in earnest with an opening ceremony unlike any before it.
The mood was electrifying inside the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil as thousands turned up for the official launch.
The performance opened with an inspirational performance with a drape showing the silhouette of a disabled woman and her shadow, playing the violin in unison.
At one point, the woman makes a mistake and casts her violin aside, disappointed, but her shadow encourages her to continue.
She picks up her violin again and begins to improve. The drape then fell to the ground to reveal Malaysian para swimmer and violinist Dawnette Yeo Yi Lin.
The crowd went wild as internationally recognised Malaysian singing sensation Yuna made a dramatic entrance, dressed in a gold embellished long dress and turban.
She belted out the song Rescue, highlighting that people with disabilities did not need “rescuing” but sought to be treated as equals. Her performance was accompanied by a series of traditional drums, including the Punjabi dhol, the Arabic darbuka and the African djembe.
Malaysia’s flag bearers for the opening were the Rio Paralympics gold medallists – shot putt world record holder Muhammad Ziyad Zolkefli and long jump world record holder Latif Romly.
And cheers erupted when the Malaysian sporting legends showed up.
Paralympic bronze medallist Mohamad Khasseri Othman, double Paralympic bronze medallist Mariappan Perumal, sportswoman of the year 2010 Nabilah Ahmad Sharif, Paralympic silver medallist Cheok Kon Fatt, sportswoman of the year 2009 Norhayati Sarnoh, 2008 Paralympic bronze medallist Siow Lee Chan, sportswoman of the year 2015 Felicia Mikat, sportsman of the year 2008/2010 Zul Amirul Sidi, sportswoman of the year 2011/2013 Hemala Devi Enu Kutty, sportsman of the year 2006 Faridul Masri, and sportswoman of the year 2014 Siti Nor Lasah Mohamad Arifin were all there.
The oath taking of athletes was led by Malaysian powerlifting champion Sharifah Raudzah Syed Akil and then, the lighting of the torch was completed by Paralympic archery bronze medallist Hasihin Sanawi, Paralympic cycling bronze medallist Muhammad Afiq Afify Rizan, Asean Para Games 400m silver medallist Krishna Kumar Haridas, Paralympic athletics bronze medallist Siti Noor Radiah Ismail, and Asean Para Games 400m freestyle gold medallist Fraiden Dawan.
The para athletes put the torch on a trough and pulled on a rope to raise it towards the top of the giant torch. As the flame soared, the Games, declared open by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, began.