The fifth IBSA World Games kicked off with an opening ceremony on May 10 in Jamsil Gymnasium in Seoul, Korea. The opening ceremony was held under the slogan of “Seeing hope through lights of the sound.”
Visual impaired and able-bodied artists, including the world’s only blind orchestra Heart Chamber Orchestra of the Blind and the National Chorus of Korea, added to the festive atmosphere in the beginning of the ceremony.
About 1626 visually impaired athletes, coaches and officials from 57 countries are participating in this event. Kenya whose Paralympic committee has been suspended by the International Paralympic Committee this April did not show up at the 2015 Games finally. The biggest delegation was Japan that has total 146 members including 89 athletes, while Uruguay, Portugal and Puerto Rico sent one athlete to represent each country.
The United States delegation consists of 28 athletes, two coaches from judo and powerlifting and the director of the United States Association for Blind Athletes (USABA). The United States did not send goalball teams as the men’s and women’s teams already qualified at last year’s IBSA Goalball World Championships.
Kevin Broursard, the only American athlete at this game, bore the flag with powerlifter Charles King.
“The 2015 IBSA World Games is absolutely critical and fundamental for the Paralympic movements and movement of para-sports and athletes with a visual impairment. It is also important for the development of athletes to be able to achieve the highest level of success in a world arena in Seoul, Korea,” Mark Lucas, the director of the USABA, said.
Lucas is expecting to take home more than one medal in each sport. “The expectation is high for our thrower, particularly. we’re hoping for a medal from our athlete, Kevin Broursard. With our three powerlifters, we are expecting about two medals. We have two new lifters out of the three. It will be challenging for them competing in a world arena for the first time.
“And in Judo, expectation is two to three medals. There are also some new athletes in judo who are here. So it will help them to have an international experience and to achieve the highest level that they possibly can. It’ll be important to build up their sporting level for Rio2016 as well as for Tokyo 2020.”
The president of the Seoul 2015 IBSA organizing committee, Byung-Doo Sohn , Seoul Mayor Won-Sun Park, and Honorary Chairman of the Seoul Games and former South Korea’s national soccer head coach Guus Hiddink welcomed all the athletes from different countries. South Korean president Geun-Hye Park sent a video message to celebrate the event. “I hope all of you make precious memories in Korea,” Park said in the video.
Jannie Hammershoi, president of IBSA also attended at the opening ceremony. “It is the first World Games in Asia ever. Today is a very special occasion, because what might not see possible is possible. I’m happy to welcome you all to the biggest World Games, ever.”
Finally, Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Jong-Deok Kim declared the start of the 2015 Games. “I hereby declare the Seoul IBSA World Games open.”
The athletes will be competing in nine different sports including athletics, chess, 5-a-side football, goalball, judo, powerlifting, showdown, swimming and ten-pin bowling from May 10 to 17. Judo is the sport that the biggest number of athletes is competing at this event, as there are 231 judokas. Meanwhile, there are the least number of players in chess event, where 30 athletes are contesting. The competition is part of the 2016 Summer Paralympic qualifying program for athletics, swimming and judo where competitors can get qualifying points or meet Minimum Qualifying Standards. For goalball, there are qualification spots available for Rio.