Hope through unity: Formative 2022 Winter Paralympics come to solemn end in Beijing
'Differences here did not divide us,' says IPC president Andrew Parsons
The precarious-yet-formative 2022 Winter Paralympics in Beijing drew to a close Sunday, with "hopes for peace" serving as the outgoing message.
International Paralympic Committee (IPC) president Andrew Parsons delivered a speech centred around the collective desire for unity.
"Differences here did not divide us," Parsons said, speaking before an audience that included Chinese president Xi Jinping.
"Through this unity we have hope. Hopes for inclusion, hopes for harmony and importantly hopes for peace," Parsons said. "Humankind hopes to live in a world where dialogue prevails."
Although Parsons' statement aligned with that of his opening ceremony speech, he made no further reference to Russia's ongoing Belarusian-aided invasion of Ukraine.
"We hope that we have sent a message of peace" <br><br>IPC president Andrew Parsons discuses the future of the Paralympic movement, Ukrainian athletes and a message of peace throughout the 2022 Games with <a href="https://twitter.com/Devin_Heroux?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Devin_Heroux</a> <a href="https://t.co/rnMNYiPZFS">pic.twitter.com/rnMNYiPZFS</a>—@cbcsports
In speaking with CBC Sports' Devin Heroux prior to the closing ceremony, Parsons discussed the importance of these Games in relation to the current tension in Europe.
"We hope that we have sent a message of peace," he said. "It was not something only I mentioned in the opening ceremony speech, all of our athletes — the teams — they wanted to express peace and express solidarity to Ukraine.
"I think these Games have been super important. Maybe the most important or relevant Paralympic Winter Games we've ever had."
Jepsen leads Canada as flag-bearer
Canada was led in the parade of athletes by 22-year-old alpine skier Mollie Jepsen, selected to be the country's flag-bearer after a two-medal performance in China.
Jepsen won Canada's first medal of the Games, a gold, in the women's standing downhill event. She later added a silver in the standing giant slalom.
WATCH | Jepsen leads Canada as flag-bearer in closing ceremony:
Canada finished third in the final medal standings, coming away with an overall haul of 25, including eight gold — the second-highest total medal performance by Canada in a Winter Paralympics, behind the 28 won at PyeongChang 2018.
The Canadian contingent consisted of 49 athletes, including four guides. A delegation that featured 25 previous medallists and 19 rookies.
Canada, meet your medallists 🇨🇦<br><br>25 medals were won by 40 Canadian athletes at the 2022 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Paralympics?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Paralympics</a> <br><br>8 gold, 6 silver and 11 bronze 🥇🥈🥉 <a href="https://t.co/SrYPAZofXK">pic.twitter.com/SrYPAZofXK</a>—@cbcsports
Canada's chef de mission Josh Dueck reflected on team's performance in Beijing, praising the athletes for coming together in a difficult time.
"We never brought out the measuring tape to see how far we wanted to go, how many medals we wanted to collect," Dueck told CBC Sports Devin Heroux. "Given the unique circumstances [surrounding these Games], the athletes have really bonded in ways that maybe we've never seen before.
"That in itself is a pretty significant win."
"The athletes have really bonded in ways that maybe we've never seen before" 🇨🇦<br><br>Canada's chef de mission Josh Dueck reflects on the 2022 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Paralympics?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Paralympics</a> <a href="https://t.co/SbbWKTEgv6">pic.twitter.com/SbbWKTEgv6</a>—@cbcsports
These Games opened eight days after the military conflict began, as Parsons made an impassioned plea for world authorities "to come together, as athletes do, and promote peace, understanding and inclusion."
Parts of Parsons' speech were not translated by Chinese state TV and some of the audio was dropped. The IPC lodged a protest over what it said was likely censorship but was told the silence was caused by an unexplained glitch.
China has yet to denounce Russia's military action against Ukraine.
Both the Russian and Belarusian cohorts were barred from the Games just days prior to the opening ceremony — and with no legal action taken by either side, the Paralympics were allowed to continue without further trepidation.
WATCH | Closing Essay: Beauty of sport on display at Paralympics:
The expulsion meant 83 athletes — 71 from Russia and 12 from Belarus — would not compete.
Meanwhile, with a modest 20 athletes competing across two sports, Ukraine performed remarkably. The country captured 29 medals overall, including 11 gold — both ranking second only to host China. It was the best result the country has ever produced in a Winter Paralympics.
Amid the ongoing war at home, much of Ukraine's team of athletes and organizers overcame difficult travel conditions in order to even attend the Games.
564 Para athletes were listed to compete in Beijing, equalling the previous record set at the 2018 Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang.
The closing ceremony marked the end of an almost six-week run for international sports in the Chinese capital that began with the opening of the Winter Olympics on Feb. 4.
WATCH | While You Were Sleeping — what you missed on Day 9:
The ceremony ended a run for Asia of hosting four of the last eight Olympics and Paralympics, starting with the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It's unclear when sports' largest stage will return to Asia.
The next Summer Olympics and Paralympics are in 2024 in Paris, followed by Winter Games in Milan-Cortina, Italy in 2026, and Los Angeles in 2028 with the Summer Games.
The earliest return to Asia looks like the 2030 Winter Olympics with Sapporo, Japan, a top contender. It was the Winter Games host in 1972.
Watch | Beijing 2022 Paralympics closing ceremony — available in DV and ASL:
With files from The Associated Press