March 4 (CNN): A record number of Para athletes -- around 700 -- were expected to compete in this year's Winter Paralympics in Beijing, but much of the focus the day before the Opening Ceremony fell on the 83 who won't.
That's after the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) announced the U-turn decision to block Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing at the Games in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
According to the IPC, backlash from the teams and athletes preparing to compete in Beijing was "jeopardising the viability" of the Games and making the safety of athletes "untenable," even after Russian and Belarusian participants were set to compete as neutrals.
It is against this backdrop that the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Paralympics gets underway on Friday with the first events scheduled for Saturday. The competition runs until March 13 and showcases 78 events across six Para sports: alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, para ice hockey, snowboarding and wheelchair curling.
As with last month's Winter Olympics, events will be held in the three separate zones of central Beijing, Yanqing and Zhangjiakou.