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Spectacular Paralympic flame ceremony creates history
STOKE Mandeville’s role as the birthplace of the Paralympic movement was celebrated with an historic and spectacular ceremony last night.
Click here for a gallery of images from the event.
Gold-medal winning wheelchair racing athlete Hannah Cockcroft created the Heritage Flame inside a large contraption dubbed the Armillary Sphere which was dedicated to the disabled Greek god Hephaestus.
Paralympic veteran and ten-time gold medallist Caz Walton - whose career spanned eight games stretching back to Tokyo 1964 - used the flame created by the sphere to light the Paralympic Cauldron.
Para-skier Andy Barlow symbolically and virtually transferred the Heritage Flame to Sochi, before Denise Knibbs - PE coordinator at the Alfriston School in Beaconsfield and Buckinghamshire's representative - lit the UK’s Paralympic Lantern.
Just as the Olympic Torch begins its journey in Olympia, the ceremony will now be held before every Paralympic Games to recognise Stoke Mandeville as the birthplace of the movement.
IPC President Sir Philip Craven said: “What Sir Ludwig Guttmann started here has saved the lives of many people with a spinal injury.
“That laid the foundations for the Paralympic Games, an event that has transformed the lives of billions and grown into the world’s third biggest sporting event...
“This chapter will ensure that for all future Paralympic Games, Stoke Mandeville and Great Britain is recognised globally as the birthplace of the Paralympic Movement.
"From now on, and for all future Paralympic Games, Stoke Mandeville will always stage one leg of the Paralympic Torch Relay celebrating the past, present and future of the Paralympic Movement in this country."
Dozens of guests, including athletes from Team GB and Paralympics GB, attended the televised ceremony which began with a film called I Am The Flame, narrated by actor Sir Ian McKellen.
Chairman of Buckinghamshire County Council Cllr Carl Etholen, who is also the chair of the Bucks Legacy Board and will accompany torchbearers to Russia, hailed the inaugural event.
He said: “It was fantastic and it is a great honour for Stoke Mandeville to be awarded a leg of the torch relay by the International Paralympic Committee, it will help to put Buckinghamshire on the international map.
“We only had a short window and it’s the first time we have put on a show of international quality, but I think it will get bigger and better starting with the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
“I think it will inspire not just disabled people but able-bodied individuals to get into sport. You only have to look at Dr Guttmann’s philosophy; if you try you will succeed.”
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