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Natalie's rare breed

By unknown | Sep 08, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

Beijing - The Chinese put yet another  spectacular  show to mark the opening of the 2008  Paralympic Games  at the National Stadium, otherwise known as the Bird's Nest,  on Saturday night.

And South Africa's swimming icon, Natalie du Toit,  also  received praise from colleagues for  making  history on the night.

Du Toit became the first athlete in the history of the Games to carry her country's flag for the opening ceremonies of both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The likeable 24-year-old carried the country's flag with pride at the opening ceremony of the Olympics at the same venue on August 8. She went on to rewrite the history books of the Olympics when she became the first disabled athlete to compete against the able-bodied in 56 years when she competed in the 10km open water swim.

South African Paralympians chose to wear their formal attire for Saturday's function after earlier reports that they were unhappy with their competing kit because it was ugly.

This forced SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee to commission a new competition kit which arrived in Beijing on Thursday.

The extravaganza on Saturday night at the 91000-seater Bird's Nest was characterised by fireworks and stunning performances. The organisers made sure that more people are entertained at the stadium when they put on a further 11000 temporary seats.

A total of 12000 people were involved in the opening ceremony, including 4813 performers from 14 units who endured a nine-month rehearsal period; and it was not surprising when they dished out a perfect display on the night.

Of the 4813 performers were 423 artists with disabilities and 420 deaf dancers who pulled off a magnificent performance in sign language dance. The show, which was also viewed by billions from across the globe on TV, had more than 4000 athletes from 148 countries.

The crowd cheered and waved their flags whenever their teams were introduced, and this added more spark at the stadium and to the atmosphere on the busy streets of China.

International Paralympics Committee president Philip Craven described the 2008 Games as "milestones in the Paralympic history" to improve the lives of China's 83 million disabled citizens.


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