Photo: Tommy HindleyTwo-time Paralympic quqd singles champion Peter Norfolk leads out the Great Britain team, which was headed by wheelchair tennis players
The London 2012 Paralympic Games got underway on Tuesday night with a spectacular Opening Ceremony based on the theme ‘Enlightenment’ that celebrated disability in sport and the arts, led by world renowned physicist Professor Stephen Hawking and actor Sir Ian McKellen.
Her Majesty the Queen officially opened the Games after Sebastian Coe, Chairman of the London Organising Committee for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and Sir Phillip Craven, President of the International Paralympic Committee welcomed the 4,200 athletes and officials in a stadium full to capacity.
The Ceremony launched 11 days of competition including 4,280 athletes from 164 countries competing across 12 sports.
Wheelchair tennis played a significant part of the Opening Ceremony, with two former players, Samanta Bullock and Athens 2004 women’s singles quarterfinalist Kay Forshaw being part of the cast of performers, while two-time Paralympic quad singles champion Peter Norfolk was flag bearer for the Great Britain team, who came into the stadium last of the teams, as is the tradition for the host nation, to a rapturous reception.
“When I was waiting in the tunnel and they gave me the flag I just thought, Wow! Then to come out into the packed stadium, in front of a home crowd of so many people, just means so much to me.
“And the fact I was voted flag bearer by my fellow athletes, many of who have won more medals than me and are the most incredible athletes, it is just so special.
“These Games are going to be fantastic and I hope we can all go on to achieve our dreams here.”
International Paralympic Committee President Sir Phil Craven told the athletes that they will “inspire and excite” the world.
“With record ticket sales, media and broadcasters, your stories and performances will challenge the way people think about themselves and how they think about others,” Sir Philip said.
“You are all catalysts for change and role models for an inclusive society. I ask you to abide by the rules and show the world exactly why you are proud Paralympians.”
LOCOG chairman Sebastian Coe said that sport is all about ability.
“Sport is about what you can do, what you can achieve, the limits you can reach, the barriers you can break,” he said.
Royal Marine Joe Townsend brought the Paralympic Flame into the stadium.
Great Britain 5-a-side footballer David Clarke carried the Flame on, before the country’s first ever Paralympic goal medalist, Margaret Maughan, lit the Paralympic Cauldron.