A view of the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games Rio 2016 at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 07 September 2016.
Photograph: EPA/Marcelo Sayão

Thousands of athletes from around the world took part Wednesday in the opening ceremony of the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro's iconic Maracana Stadium.

The three-hour ceremony heralded the start of the 11-day event in which more than 4,000 athletes from 161 countries will compete for 528 gold medals across 23 Paralympic sports.

Brazilian President Michel Temer, who took office just over one week ago after then-president Dilma Rousseff was formally impeached, declared the Games open, but his statement could hardly be heard above loud booing and whistling. There were also repeated cries of "Temer out."

The 75-year-old was accompanied by his wife, Marcella, 33. The usual greeting of heads of state at the beginning of the ceremony was dispensed with. A large fireworks display that began after Temer declared the games open managed to dampen the noise of the jeering.

A speech by Carlos Arthur Nuzman, the chairman of the organizing committee, was also interrupted for an extended period by the crowd's demonstration of displeasure when he thanked the government for its support.

The country has been deeply riven by a power struggle in Brasilia. Rousseff has promised "tireless opposition" to Temer, and said on Twitter that she was still the president of Brazil and wished the country's team good luck.

Fears over funding threatened the organization of the Paralympics but a late surge in ticket sales to 1.5 million suggests Brazilians are now getting behind the event which is much smaller in scale than the recently completed Olympic Games.

The closing ceremony also takes place in Maracana Stadium on September 18.

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