29 August 2012 midnight+ London Time
by Judith Vecchione, for MEDAL QUEST
Opening Ceremonies for the London 2012 Paralympics ended an hour ago, and they were amazing. I could pick out one moment after another that was tremendous:
•Royal Marine Commando Joe Townsend, who lost his legs in an IED explosion in Afghanistan, flying the torch into the stadium on a zipline from the 130-foot Orbit Tower, the tallest monument in Britain. Townsend is an aspiring Paralympian, working towards the 2016 Rio Games, and he was spectacular.
•David Toole, a supremely graceful dancer with no legs, using his powerful and expressive arms to dance, first on the stage and then in the air. For a moment, as he began to rise, I thought, “Well, of course he can fly!” I didn’t even look for the wires that lifted him. I just believed.
•The interplay of two of the greatest voices in the world today, actor Ian McKellen and physicist Stephen Hawking, as story narrators and commentators.
Yes, there were clunker moments, as there are at all these opening ceremonies, like the peculiar diversion into IsaacNewton’s discovery of gravity, where everyone in the stadium was supplied with an apple and invited to bite into it all together. Not much of a crunch, really… Or the jump to a sub-story that I really was baffled by, on the Hadron Collider at CERN (not even British!) where people carrying red pop-up tents ran around to illustrate atoms smashing into each other. At least that’s what I think they were doing. We’d seen those tents all lined up, hundreds of them, in the back corridors on our production prep trip Monday and wondered what they would be used for. Now we know…
And yes, the parade of athletes, wonderful though each group is, went on and on and on. But boy, those athletes were having a great time! You could see they were enjoying the cheers that followed them as they circled the arena.
As they strolled and rolled, I had time to reflect on something we've seen repeatedly in the MEDAL QUEST stories: Life is full of life-altering surprises, some good and some bad, and we don’t control those events. But we do control our reaction to what happens, and that reaction makes us who we are, gives us our successes and opportunities and joys. Think about sitting volleyball’s after her car accident, giving up her military career and finding a new life in sitting volleyball and helping other wounded warriors. Or , as her vision faded, discovering new sports to excel at. Or inventing the mouth tab that’s enabled him to rack up high scores and many medals in para-archery.
So now the 2012 Games begin. 4,200+ athletes. 11 days of hot competitions. Kari and Jen and Jeff and Tatyana and Paul and Blake and Lex and all the other MQ athletes, completing their personal medal quests. We'll be there with new stories and videos and pictures. We hope you’ll check it all out.