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Paralympics off to a big bang

The champion Windward Islands cricketers huddle in celebration after beating the Leeward Islands today.
Professor Stephen Hawking opened the ceremony as

The London 2012 Paralympics opening ceremony began at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford tonight with a spectacular display of dancing and a “big bang”, watched by some 80,000 spectators and a television audience of millions.

Professor Stephen Hawking opened the event, speaking of the quest for understanding the universe. Some 3,000 volunteers took part in the show, which organisers have entitled Enlightenment.

The opening ceremony signalled the start of 11 days of competition by more than 4,000 athletes from 165 countries.The start of the show featured a flypast by Aerobility, a British charity that trains disabled people to become pilots. Disabled ex-serviceman David Rawlins flew a twin-engined Tecnam P2006 light aircraft over the stadium as the ceremony began. Six Paralympians and former competitors then flew into the stadium on golden wheelchairs – Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson was among them.

And the Queen was welcomed by Sir Philip Craven, President of the International Paralympic Committee.

It was the first time the Queen has officiated at the openings of both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. “Look up at the stars, and not down at your feet,” Hawking, an acclaimed British scientist said. “Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.”

Fireworks exploded in a starry burst and the stadium was transformed into a scene from deep space. A glowing celestial sphere then descended in to the middle of a giant shape of an umbrella in the stadium.

A giant blinking eye appeared, as the cast used their umbrellas to form the iris while performers on 23 individual 15ft-high sway poles acted as the eyelashes

Hawking’s words were directed at the character called Miranda, who was to be the eyes of the audience throughout the show.

Miranda is a character from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, a play referenced throughout London’s four Olympic and Paralympic opening and closing ceremonies. (BBC)

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