2016 Rio Paralympics officially begin

2:16 pm on 8 September 2016

The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games have officially opened in a kaleidoscope of colour to a nearly full house in the famous Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

The 2016 Rio Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony.

The 2016 Rio Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony. Photo: AFP

The show opened with striking colours and the sounds of Brazilian samba music.

About 4350 athletes from over 160 countries will compete in 22 sports at the Games.

New Zealand's 31-strong team was led out by javelin thrower Holly Robinson from Hokitika.

Tens of thousands of Rio locals saved their loudest cheer for last when the host nation entered the stadium.

A small crowd gathered at Auckland's waterfront this morning to kick off the start of the Games.

A Paralympic fan zone has been set up at the cafe in the Auckland Fish Market in the Wynyard Quarter, which has been live-streaming the opening ceremony.

Former Paralympian Evan Clulee said there had been a significant shift in attention towards the Games since he competed in 1992.

Paralympians such as swimmers Sophie Pascoe and Cameron Leslie were now household names alongside Olympians, he said.

"People ... have well and truly got the message that these are not athletes having a go.

"These are elite athletes, the best of the best, and are committed [to] being the best athletes they can be in whatever discipline."

The fan zone will screen events from 7am for the next 12 days.

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