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Paralympics open with a bang

Aussie Paralympians enter stadium at Opening Ceremony Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty

After spending two weeks indulging in the greatest sporting spectacle on Earth, you’d be forgiven for thinking the people of London had overdosed on athletic competition.

But it was a whole different story at last night’s Paralympics Opening Ceremony, with a capacity crowd of 80,000 standing, stomping and shouting in celebration as thousands of Paralympians made their entrance into the Olympic Stadium.

Among the crowd was Queen Elizabeth, making history as the first monarch to open both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Wheel chair rugby legend Greg Smith served as flag bearer for the Australian team, leading 161 athletes into the stadium.

While the Aussie team was certainly a crowd favourite, it was the home team of Great Britain that sent the crowd into raptures, as they entered to confetti canons and the sounds of David Bowie’s “We Could Be Heroes”.

The impressive show was opened by Professor Stephen Hawking and took spectators through the history of the world – starting with the Big Bang.

Seventy-three of the shows’ performers had disabilities themselves.

Fittingly, the theme of human endeavour, and achievement through technology and science flowed through the ceremony with International Paralympic Committee president Sir Philip Craven paying tribute to the athletes in his address.

“You not only have the ability to win medals in London, but you also have the ability to change the world,” he said.

Royal Marine Joe Townsend, who lost both his legs after stepping on a landmine in Afghanistan, brought the Paralympic torch into the stadium.

It was passed to David Clarke, a member of Britain’s visually impaired five-a-side football team, then ignited by Great Britain’s first Paralympic gold medallist, archer Margaret Maughan.

The cauldron, a blooming flower made up of hundreds of petals, was as inspiring as the ceremony itself.

It’s clear to see Londoners are far from suffering the after effects of the Olympics; they’ve merely extended the celebrations by a month.

In his speech, Lord Sebastian Coe told spectators to “prepare to be inspired, prepare to be dazzled, prepare to be moved.”

He probably didn’t even need to voice his sentiments – as the Olympics were drawing to a close, buzz had already began to build for the Paralympics.

Officials had encouraged those who had missed out on Olympic tickets to snap up seats to Paralympic events and if the Opening Ceremony was any indication, it’s obvious they’ve taken the advice.

The first of 11 days of competition kicked off Thursday evening Australian time.

 

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