The Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games took place at the Olympic Stadium, seating a massive 80,000 people with more than 7.7 million viewers worldwide.
The event was created by artistic directors Jenny Sealy and Bradley Hemmings and involved the participation of more than 3,000 adult volunteers alongside 100 children and 100 professional performers.
The night took particular artistic influence from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” involving actors Nicola Miles-Wildin and Ian Mckellen to take on the roles of Miranda and Prospero. Sealy said the character of Miranda was used within the performance as she “sees everybody but she doesn’t judge. That is fundamental to our personal and political ethos.”
The night began with the lighting of the cauldron with the Paralympic flame. Its journey had begun as four segments, each residing in the highest peaks of the four countries of the United Kingdom, Scarfell Pike in England, Ben Nevis in Scotland, Slieve Donard in Northern Ireland and Snowdon in Wales. After the beginning of their journey on August 22, all the flames had reached Stoke Mandeville, the birthplace of the Paralympics, by August 28 and shortly after were combined to form the Paralympic flame.
With a 92-mile journey ahead to London, the Torch was then carried by people such as Katie Piper, Chris Channer and Janjo Look, who had all been affected by disabilities. Joe Townsend carried the Torch into the stadium as the “future” athlete under a three-generations theme.
The next to receive the flame was David Clarke, a man who represented the present as the long-term captain of Britain’s Paralympic five-a-side football team. Margaret Maughan, the recipient of Great Britain’s first-ever gold medal in the 1960 Paralympics, finished the Torch’s journey across the UK and represented the past.
From August 29 until September 9, 503 medal events and 20 sports were held in the birth country of the Paralympics. London was host to 4,302 athletes from 164 National Paralympic Committees with 14 countries appearing for the very first time.
One of the most prominent controversies raised at the Games was the eligibility of 17-year-old swimmer Victoria Arlen. Just before the Games, her disability was reclassified, meaning she was not able to participate in her intended class. Following her successful appeal, it was announced Arlen was able to partake in the S6 400 metres swimming competition in which she went on to receive a silver medal. Arlen said: “It is what it is when it comes to sport, I’m just happy to be here.”
Wheelchair racer David Weir brought home a total of four gold medals in four events for Great Britain at London 2012. Beating Marcel Hug twice in order to secure this incredible feat, Weir said: “I had to be in super-human shape to win four and I’ve done it.” Weir won the 800m, 1,500m, 5,000m and the T54 marathon, completing his quartet of medals on the Mall in London on September 9.
Another moment provoking backlash at the Games was when men’s T44 200m sprinter Oscar Pistorius suggested that there was foul play regarding the length of fellow athlete Alan Oliveira’s blades.
The Brazilian athlete, after winning gold, came under direct scrutiny from Pistorius who said: “These guys are a lot taller and you can’t compete [with the] stride length. You saw how far he came back. We aren’t racing a fair race. I gave it my best.”
After much uproar regarding the situation, the International Paralympic Committee confirmed Oliveira’s blade length was in fact proportional to his body (as per the Paralympic rules) and Pistorius’ grounds for complaint were invalid.
On August 31, Hannah Cockroft won the first track gold medal for Britain since 2004, managing to complete the T34 100m in her wheelchair in 18.05sec.
The-then 20-year-old Paralympian also beat her fellow athletes by a whole second in the T34 200m race, completing the track in 31.9 seconds. After only beginning racing in 2007 at university, Cockroft had worked intensely in order to secure this astounding record at London 2012.
Directed by Kim Gavin, who also directed the 2012 Olympic Closing Ceremony, “The Festival of the Flame” was a visual spectacular held on September 9 to end the Games.
The theme of the Ceremony was “four seasons” and was carried out by around 4,100 people with a budget of £20 million ($24 million/€22 million). During the Ceremony, the Paralympic flag was passed from then Mayor of London Boris Johnson to then Mayor of Rio de Janeiro Eduardo Paes, where the 2016 Games were to be held.
The Paralympic cauldron was in turn extinguished by swimmer Eleanor Simmonds and sprinter Jonnie Peacock. Among other speakers, International Paralympic Committee President Sir Phillip Craven spoke to the crowd of 80,000 and congratulated London for hosting “the greatest Paralympic Games ever”.
Date Games held: August 29 - September 9
Number of nations represented: 164
Number of competitors: 4.302
Number of medal events: 503
Gold medal standings: China 95; Russia 36; Great Britain 34; Ukraine 32; Australia 32