London Paralympics open in ‘journey of discovery’August 30th, 2012 - 4:43 pm ICT by IANS
London, Aug 30 (IANS) London Paralympic Games were officially opened in a storytelling ceremony highlighted by “a journey of discovery” Wednesday night.
Guided by the world’s most celebrated scientist, Professor Stephen Hawking, the ceremony explored the twin themes of reason and rights and was led by the character Miranda, featured in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”, heralding 11-day competition for Paralympians, Xinhua reports.
Named Enlightenment, the three-hour show featured the use of umbrellas, quintessentially British and full of comic potential. The professional cast included 73 deaf and disabled performers, and 3,250 volunteers from all over the world.
A crowd of about 62,000 spectators at the Olympic Stadium were offered an apple each to join in a probably largest “apple crunch” party, creating simultaneous bites of the fruit to feel the theme of “Gravity”, in a tribute to Isaac Newton, which was one highlight of the total 11 scenes.
The opening section introduced Miranda, played by professional actress Nicola Miles-Wildin, who encouraged audiences to look at the world with a sense of wonder and curiosity.
Professor Hawking appeared on the “moon stage” and spoke of the quest for understanding the origins of the universe. He called for a new age of enlightenment as he acted as a guide to Miranda and audiences on a journey through time and the great discoveries that have changed perceptions about the possibilities of the human mind and the physical universe.
In the section titled “Spirit in Motion”, which is the motto of the Paralympic Movement, athletes from across the world entered the stadium, where they received a suitably energising welcome.
Teams from 164 countries and regions, the largest ever number in the history of the Games, brought together about 4,200 athletes to compete in 503 medal events from 20 sports.
“Sport is about what you can do, what you can achieve, the limits you can reach, the barriers you can break. Sport shows what is possible,” said Sebastian Coe, the chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG).
“And now we are ready. Now the stadiums are ready. Now the people of Britain are ready. Now the athletes are ready,” he added.
International Paralympic Committee president Philip Craven praised Ludwig Guttmann, the founding father of the Games, echoing the theme of the chapter “Homecoming”.
Sixty-four years ago, on the same day at the start of the 1948 London Olympics, Guttmann organised the first Stoke Mandeville Games for the disabled, which was regarded as the origin and inspiration for the Paralympics.
“You are here to continue the journey started by Sir Ludwig Guttmann and write the next chapter in the history of the Paralympic Movement. You not only have the abilities to win medals in London, but have the abilities to change the world,” said Craven.
At the end of his speech, the president invited Queen Elizabeth II officially to declare the Games open.
An athlete, official and coach each pledged their commitment to the ideals of the Games’ movement, sportsmanship and impartiality.
A short, emotionally charged film showed the journey of the Paralympic Torch to the Stadium.
The flame was ignited in Stoke Mandeville village prior to a 24-hour torch relay Tuesday night. The Flame then was carried over a total of 92 miles by 116 teams of five people in an overnight relay to reach the Stadium.
At the end of the film, Royal Marine Commando Joe Townsend - an aspiring Paralympic triathlete - was revealed with the Torch at the top of the ArcelorMittal Orbit, just outside the Stadium, and descended on a zip wire onto the field of play.
Townsend handed the Torch to David Clarke, a visually impaired athlete competing in the Paralympics GB 5-a-side Football team, who took the flame towards the Cauldron. He passed it to the final torchbearer, Margaret Maughan-Britain’s first Paralympic gold medallist, who lit a single tiny flame within one of the copper petals, triggering the ignition of all the other petals.
The elegant stems gently rose towards each other and converged to create one great flame of unity.
The ceremony ended with a special performance of the inspirational song “I Am What I Am”.
Under the dazzling fireworks lightening the sky above the stadium, the audiences became part of the show by echoing the lyrics “I am what I am” to stage a memorable night for the world.
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