When Li Duan lit the cauldron, Beijing became the first city to host both winter and summer Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Australia was led out by para-alpine skiers Mitch Gourley and Melissa Perrine, who are entering their fourth and final Games together.
Like the Winter Olympics, Australia was third-last in the order, only marching before 2026 hosts Italy and hosts China, due to the order of the Chinese alphabet.
Australia had five of its 10-person team in attendance, with Rae Anderson, Josh Hanlon and Perrine’s sighted guide Bobbi Kelly also marching, and 11 people in total.
Snowboard star Ben Tudhope didn’t attend because of the distance from his Zhangjiakou village to Beijing, while Sam Tait, Patrick Jensen and Amelia Hodgson had tight turnarounds before their downhill races on Saturday.
Eighteen members of Ukraine’s delegation were at the Beijing Winter Paralympics opening ceremony amid calls for peace after Russia’s invasion. The Ukrainians’ marching party were applauded at the Beijing opening ceremony, where International Paralympic Committee president Andrew Parsons called for peace.
Days after Ukraine’s team and staff completed an arduous journey east, and less than 30 hours after Russian and Belarusian athletes were banned from the Games, members of Ukraine’s 54-person delegation marched in the Bird’s Nest on Friday. Ukraine has 20 athletes and nine sighted guides in Beijing.
Without specifically naming Russia, Belarus, which has supported the invasion, or Ukraine, IPC president Parsons called on world authorities to “promote peace”, clearly referencing the conflict that has defined the impending Games.
“As the leader of an organisation with inclusion at its core, where diversity is celebrated and differences embraced, I am horrified at what is taking place in the world at the moment,” Parsons said.
“The 21st century is a time for dialogue and diplomacy, not war and hate.
“Tonight, the Paralympic Movement calls on world authorities to come together, as athletes do, and promote peace, understanding and inclusion.”
He also noted the Olympic Truce “must be respected and observed, not violated” and ended his speech with a call of “peace”.
The IPC had initially ruled on Wednesday that Russian and Belarusian athletes would be able to compete as neutrals, before backflipping less than 24 hours later as other teams threatened to boycott and amid concerns over a volatile atmosphere at the athletes’ village.
Ukraine’s contingent were quiet and reserved and were applauded by the audience as they completed their lap, led by flagbearer, cross-country skiing and para biathlon star Maksym Yarovyi.
Press attache Nataliia Harach had previously detailed Ukraine’s arduous journey, with those based in Kyiv first relocating to Lviv before making their way through Europe to meet the rest of their team in Milan.
“We had to move from Ukraine through Poland, Slovakia, Austria, etc, until Milan because near Milan there was (the rest) of our team,” Harach said.
Chinese president Xi Jinping declared the Games open after a visually spectacular ceremony.