The wait is over. Tonight with the opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford the London 2012 Paralympics Games will officially begin. In some ways the Paralympics Games are coming home. In fact the concept of the Paralympics Games was born in Stoke Mandeville, UK, in 1948, at the same time of the London Olympic Games, when a disability sports competition was held.
Then the first official Paralympics Games took place in Rome 1960 Games and featured 400 athletes from 23 countries but only since the Seoul 1988 Games the Olympic and Paralympics Games have taken place in the same city.
These 2012 London Paralympics Games already has a record with the largest numbers ever of athletes to attend it, 4,280 , who will be joined by 3,500 team officials, 1,255 Games officials and 22 assistance dogs in the Athletes’ Village.
They will represent 166 countries, 19 more than in Beijing with fifteen countries who will be making their Paralympics Games début: Antigua and Barbuda, Brunei, Cameroon, Comoros, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, North Korea, San Marino, the Solomon Islands, and the US Virgin Islands.
There will be a total of 284 sessions of 503 events of 20 sports across 11 days of competition. Channel 4 is the official broadcaster for the London 2012 Paralympics Games, and there will be also a BT live big screen at Trafalgar Square.
Channel 4 News Presenter Jon Snow said : “The Paralympics really will introduce the viewers to super humans”.
After a successful Olympics the organizers had a lot of work to get London ready for the Paralympics Games with changes and updates. First of all the two Games are separate entities, in fact for the Paralympics the organisation is IPC (International Paralympics Committee) and not IOC, moreover the Paralympics logo is the Agitos , the three swoops in red, green and blue that represent the Paralympics motto “spirit in motion”, which replace in many locations across the country the Olympic iconic interlocking rings, as at the Tower Bridge.
About the sports venues the 2012 Paralympics Games will use many of the same venues the London 2012 Olympics, which have been converted, but also some new venues such as Eton Manor for wheelchair tennis and Brands Hatch for road cycling.
17 Olympic venues are being dismantled or handed back to their owners.
The Olympic athletes’ village was converted into the Paralympics Village in order to accommodate 1,800 wheelchair users and 22 assistance dogs, with 14 tonnes of spare parts and equipment which arrived for service provision including a wheelchair repair centre, provided by Ottobock.
The 2012 Paralympics Games are different from the Olympic even in other ways: Paralympics athletes compete in different classes according to type and/or severity of disability, many sports are the same of the Olympics but added prosthetics, wheelchairs and human guides. Other sports such as goalball and boccia are exclusive to the Paralympics.
Paralympics athletes excel in their field despite being a little older than the Olympics one but they are subject to the same list of banned substances as Olympic athletes.
The Paralympics Torch and its relay were different too. In fact the Paralympics torch was intended to have a “modern” and “innovative” look, and is constructed with an aluminium alloy skin that is perforated to help with heat dissipation and grip and also has a reflective finish, allowing it to match its surroundings and provide better visibility at night.
Its relay began on 22 August, when groups of scouts (both disabled and non-disabled) kindled four Paralympics flames on the highest peaks of each nation of the United Kingdom; Scafell Pike in England, Ben Nevis in Scotland, Slieve Donard in Northern Ireland, and Snowdon in Wales.
On 24 August the flames were used to light ceremonial cauldrons in their respective capital cities (London, Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff) during “Flame Festival” events and then on 28 August the four flames came together in Stoke Mandeville to create a single Paralympics flame.
Yesterday started a 24-hour torch relay, with the Paralympics flame carried 92 miles by 580 torchbearers, from Stoke Mandeville Stadium through Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and all six of London’s host boroughs to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford where it will be used to light the cauldron at the opening ceremony of the Paralympics Games tonight.
Yesterday was also held a press conference by Mayor of London Boris Johnson, at the London Media Centre, which addressed London’s Security and Transport Readiness for the 2012 Paralympics Games.
The Mayor said that a amazing total of 2.5 million tickets have been sold so far, making the event a sell-out but another 100,000 tickets will be released throughout Games-time. He added: “the Paralympics Games will be the most accessible ever”. All 8,500 London buses and all 22,000 London taxis are wheelchair accessible; 66 tube stations having step-free access while access improvement works have taken place at more than 90 national rail stations.
A total of £350 million upgrade was given to the London Overground network. Boris Johnson declared: “We’re going to build on the legacy from the Games to add more disabled access throughout the transport network”. Chris Allison, Assistant Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police, said: “the Metropolitan Police want to deliver as good a Paralympics as the Olympics”.
There will be around 7,000 police officers on duty in venue areas on peak days with 3,500 military personnel which contributing to security. Sports Minister Hugh Robertson has declared that London will host the “biggest and best Paralympics Games ever”. .