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'Inspirational' Paralympics to open in London tonight

Cyclist Cathal Miller will lead the 49 Irish athletes into the Olympic Stadium for tonight’s sold-out opening ceremony.

The prosthetic leg of swimmer Elizabeth Stone from the United States is seen as she trains at the Aquatic Centre.
The prosthetic leg of swimmer Elizabeth Stone from the United States is seen as she trains at the Aquatic Centre.
Image: Emilio Morenatti/AP/Press Association Images

MORE THAN 3,000 volunteers will take part in an “Enlightenment” spectacular when the 2012 Paralympic Games is officially opened in London on Wednesday evening.

Before the 11-day programme of competitive action begins on Thursday morning, the Paralympic torch is making its final journey from the spiritual home of disabled sport — Stoke Mandeville — to the British capital.

Queen Elizabeth II is due to formally open the Games in a programme which begins at 8.30pm.

Road and track cyclist Cathal Miller will carry the tricolour and lead Team Ireland into the Olympic Stadium for the sold-out opening ceremony.

Forty-nine Irish athletes, including Beijing double-gold medallist Jason Smyth, will compete across 10 sports in London.

The evening’s showpiece, called “Enlightenment”, has been billed as a “celebration of the inspirational spirit of the Paralympic Games that challenges perceptions of human possibility”.

The British Paralympic Association (BPA) said earlier this year that the ceremony would be “groundbreaking in its inclusivity and innovative staging”, showcasing deaf and disabled artists.

More than 3,000 adults will be among the cast, as well as over 100 children and 100-plus professional performers, while “Aerobility”, a British charity that trains disabled people to become pilots, will perform a fly-past, the BPA said.

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The traditional curtain-raiser to the festival of elite disability sport comes as the Games have been hailed as the biggest and most-high profile Paralympics since the inaugural edition in Rome in 1960. Almost 2.5 million tickets have been sold so far, organisers said.

A record 4,200 athletes, including an unprecedented number of women, are due to take part in 20 sports, with the event a near sell-out for the first time and due to be broadcast to millions worldwide.

The sporting action begins on Thursday, with shooting set to provide the first gold of the Games in the women’s 10m standing air rifle.

– Additional reporting by AFP

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