On March 7, 2002, the Salt Lake 2002 Paralympic Winter Games officially began with the Opening Ceremony at Rice-Eccles Olympic Stadium to a sold-out audience of 46,000.
The Games theme: “Awaken the mind, free the body, inspire the spirit.”
The Salt Lake 2002 Paralympic Winter Games included nine days of 26 events as 416 athletes from 36 countries competed in three sports and four disciplines. Six countries sent Paralympic athletes for the first time: Andorra, Chile, the People’s Republic of China, Croatia, Greece and Hungary.
Germany won 17 events, bringing home the most gold medals and excelling in biathlon. Norway and Russia saw great success in the cross-country competitions, while the U.S. was victorious in the gold medal ice sledge hockey match. Alpine skier Martin Braxenthaler of Germany won his fourth gold medal, and Michael Milton from Australia won gold in all four alpine events.
Salt Lake 2002 was the first organizing committee to completely integrate the planning for both the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, lowering costs and using the same infrastructure for the both Games.
Spectators flocked to the Salt Lake 2002 Paralympic Winter Games, buying 211,790 tickets, or 85 percent of all available tickets. More than 30 broadcasters shared the Paralympic experience, and a total of 836 accredited members of the media reported on the events.