As war rages, Paralympics open in Beijing without Russia

Mar 3, 2022, 7:52 AM | Updated: Mar 4, 2022, 8:54 pm
Team China make their entrance during the opening ceremony at the 2022 Winter Paralympics, Friday, ...

Team China make their entrance during the opening ceremony at the 2022 Winter Paralympics, Friday, March 4, 2022, in Beijing. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

(AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

BEIJING (AP) — The Winter Paralympics opened Friday in Beijing with the Russian athletes sent home, the Ukrainian team escaping a war zone to get to China and an impassioned call for peace.

Andrew Parsons, the president of the International Paralympic Committee, declared his horror at the fighting in Ukraine and called on world authorities to promote peace.

“Tonight, I want, I must begin with a message of peace,” Parsons said in brief remarks to the athletes and spectators at the Bird’s Nest stadium. “As the leader of an organization with inclusion at its core, where diversity is celebrated and differences embraced, I am horrified at what is taking place in the world right now.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, shortly after the Winter Olympics wrapped up in Beijing, is roiling the world. And the world of sports is no exception.

Paralympic organizers initially announced that Russians and Belarusians would be allowed to compete in Beijing, but reversed course one day before the opening and expelled athletes from both countries. They cited tensions in the Athletes Village. The Russian Paralympic Committee called the decision “absolutely politicized.”

The live broadcast of the opening on Chinese state TV did not translate Parsons’ condemnation of war and and then lowered the volume of his remarks in English for a while. The Chinese government has been restricting anti-Russia views in state media and online. Unlike the U.S. and Europe, it has not criticized the invasion and opposed sanctions on Russia.

Ahead of the opening, about 16 members of the Ukrainian team, wearing their yellow and blue winter outfits and knit hats, chanted “peace for Ukraine” as they held up large banners including “Stop War” in a holding area for the participants. Competitors from other countries applauded and cheered and a few came up and hugged the Ukrainians.

Maksym Yarovyi carried the country’s now widely known blue and yellow flag into the stadium at the head the delegation. All the athletes and spectators wore face masks to protect against the coronavirus, including Chinese President Xi Jinping and other dignitaries.

“It’s a miracle that we have made it to the Paralympics,” Ukrainian delegation head Valerii Sushkevych said earlier.

He said it took four days for team members in Ukraine to reach Beijing, and that he slept on the floor of a bus because of a back condition during the last two days of the journey through Europe.

“We overcame a lot of barriers on the way,” Sushkevych said. “Many members of our team had to escape while there was bombardment and shells exploding.”

Li Duan, a blind former long jumper for China who won gold in Athens in 2004 and in Beijing in 2008, felt around for the holder and then struggled a bit to insert the flame. The crowd cheered him on until he mounted it properly in the center of a large white snowflake that then ascended to the top of the open-air stadium.

A total of 564 athletes, of which 138 are women, are competing in the Paralympics. China has the largest team, with 96 competitors, followed by the United States with 65. The Paralympics includes six sports — Alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, biathlon, hockey, snowboarding and curling.

“Much work still needs to be done to achieve gender parity but having increased female participation significantly at the Winter Games in the last 20 years shows we are heading in the right direction,” Parsons said.

The 10-day Paralympics close on March 13.

___

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

United States' Ariel Atkins shoots at goal as South Korea's Kim Danbi , left, attempts to block dur...
Associated Press

US has record performance in 145-69 rout of South Korea

SYDNEY (AP) — Brionna Jones scored 24 points, A’ja Wilson added 20 and the U.S. used a dominant inside effort for a record performance in a 145-69 win over South Korea on Monday in the World Cup. It broke the highest scoring game in World Cup history, surpassing the 143 points Brazil had in 1990. […]
23 hours ago
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) passes against the Denver Broncos during the f...
Associated Press

Broncos, Wilson edge Niners, Garoppolo 11-10 in prime time

DENVER (AP) — Nine three-and-outs. No touchdown passes. Only 126 yards passing. It was one of the ugliest games of Russell Wilson’s storied career. To him, it was a thing of beauty. “We’re still learning each other as a whole new system,” Wilson said after the Broncos grinded out an 11-10 win over the San […]
23 hours ago
New York Yankees' Jose Trevino (39) hits an RBI single to score Oswaldo Cabrera during the fourth i...
Associated Press

Judge still at 60, Yanks get rain-shortened win over Red Sox

NEW YORK (AP) — Stunted by the rain Sunday night, Aaron Judge is taking his record chase on the road. Judge remained at 60 home runs, one short of Roger Maris’ American League mark, when the New York Yankees’ 2-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox was called after six innings because of heavy showers. […]
23 hours ago
Tyler Reddick drives in front of Erik Jones (43) during the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Texas Mo...
Associated Press

Reddick wins NASCAR playoff race in long, tiring Texas day

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Tyler Reddick opened the round of 12 in NASCAR’s playoff with a victory at Texas on Sunday, winning a week after being one of the first four Cup drivers knocked out of title contention. After none of the contenders won the first three races of the playoffs — a first […]
23 hours ago
Atlanta Braves's Ronald Acuna Jr. celebrates after scoring on an RBI single by Michael Harris II du...
Associated Press

Acuña delivers late, Braves outlast Phillies 8-7 in 11

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Ronald Acuña singled home the go-ahead run in the 11th inning and the Braves stayed close in the NL East race, outlasting the Phillies 8-7 Sunday in a game that took over six hours to complete because of a two-hour rain delay. “Our goal is to win the World Series again,” Acuna […]
23 hours ago
Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Tom Brady thorws during the second half of an NFL football game against the G...
Associated Press

Rodgers throws for 2 TDs, Packers hold off Brady, Bucs 14-12

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers did just enough to beat Tom Brady and the short-handed Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The NFL MVP threw for 255 yards and two touchdowns, and the Packers withstood a late rally led by Brady to hold off the Bucs for a 14-12 victory in the […]
23 hours ago
As war rages, Paralympics open in Beijing without Russia