A spectacular opening ceremony for the XII Paralympics took place in front of a sell-out 72,000 crowd at the Athens Olympic Stadium on Friday.
Fireworks from the stadium roof, light projections and performances from about 3,000 volunteers provided a stunning start to the 11 days of action.
The centrepiece was a 26m tall styrofoam tree in the middle of the arena that symbolised life.
More than 3,800 athletes from 136 countries will take part at the Games.
During the parade of nations the names of the countries were presented in English, Greek and also announced in sign language.
Greek president Costis Stephanopoulos declared the opening of the Games, while the head of the International Paralympic Committee, Phil Craven, addressed the crowd and watching world.
"More than 2000 years ago, the Greek philosopher Democritos said: 'To win oneself is the first and best of all victories'. This holds true for all athletes but especially for Paralympians," said Craven.
"Recognising and cultivating your unique abilities and mastering challenges - you set standards and give expression for many people, young and old, around the
"Thousands of Greek school children and youths have learned about the Paralympic Games and experiencing them for the first time will change their perceptions forever."
The Games, which were first organised in Rome 1960, begin on Saturday.