The Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Torch Relay is en route, making its way to Vancouver for March 12th. This morning I had the chance to speak with Patrick Roberge whose production company, Patrick Roberge Productions (PRP), has been tasked with presenting us the the Opening Ceremony.
Having closely watched several recent Olympic opening ceremonies, I asked Patrick how the Paralympic ceremony compares. He said that the structure is similar, having the same protocol requirements such as the athletes parade, raising of the flag, and lighting of the cauldron. “Then we have the opportunity to make the show that surrounds all those elements as different as we like,” he added.
Before the Olympic opening ceremony in Vancouver many wondering how Beijing could be topped, however the production truly dazzled millions of viewers in its own way. Leading up to the Paralympic ceremony, I asked Patrick what we could expect (without giving away any secrets of course). “What we’re going for is a very friendly, very emotionally charged ceremony that will make people really connect with the human story of the Paralympics.” Sure, past Olympic ceremonies were grand and spectacular but the goal for the Paralympics is to make that connection on a more intimate scale. “We’re hoping people will be incredibly filled with amazing spirit and be inspired by the celebration of ability that we’ll demonstrate.”
Producing the Paralympics Opening Ceremony is no small feat however. With experience in Torino and Beijing alongside working on the Man in Motion Tour & Terry Fox anniversaries, PRP is fully prepared to take on this significant task. “It’s an incredibly rewarding experience – the people have been unbelievably cool,” said Patrick. The uniqueness of the Paralympics is what will make these Games and even this ceremony so profound.
Patrick told me that someone once said to him that most Olympians have a similar story: They were young children who got into sports, they began to pursue them, excelling in their field, and ended up with incredible athletic achievement leading them to the Olympics. However, he said that every single Paralympian story is different, they each have an incredible history and that’s what they’ll bring to the production. “Not all started off as athletes – they became athletes,” he said. The Paralympians each have stories about their individual feats of excellence in getting to this level of competition. “It’s been very inspiring to me from artistic direction.”
With CTV airing the Opening Ceremony complimented by Brian Williams’ as host, this could be one of the most-watched Paralympic Opening Ceremonies to date. Many Vancouverites are already excited to keep the Olympic-sized celebration alive. School children are talking about sledge hockey out in the playground while my own niece and nephew are already spellbound by the athletic ability of the participants. Patrick said that Vancouver is already such a great place to live the Paralympic dream and celebrate triumphs of human ability. “Our heroes are Rick Hansen and Terry Fox. Vancouver has also elected a quadriplegic Mayor [Sam Sullivan]. We’ve broken those barriers.” The goal of the ceremony, simply put, will be to showcase the best athletes in the world.
Humbled and honored to have this opportunity, Patrick and his team at PRP will present Vancouver with its first glimpse of the Paralympics, and the Paralympians this Friday. He said their goal will be to “inspire the rest of the world, Canadian style.”
The Paralympics begin nine days of competition March 13th, following the Opening Ceremony on the 12th at BC Place. You can read this post for a full guide to the Paralympics (from parking to free events). The Closing Ceremony will take place March 21st in Whistler.