London bus back again as Paralympics begin journey from Beijing

ParalympicsGB capped their most successful ever Games with a celebration of diversity. Matt McGeehan reports from Beijing
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The Independent Online

London assumed the mantle of host city after a spectacular handover at the Paralympic Games Closing Ceremony in Beijing yesterday. Mayor Boris Johnson received the International Paralympic Committee flag from president Philip Craven to signal the start of London's reign as host, 60 years since the first sporting event for competitors with a disability at Stoke Mandeville, which was held at the same time as the 1948 Olympics in the British capital.

The Harrow International School in Beijing sang "God Save the Queen" before the party began. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (Locog) then illustrated a dynamic, youthful picture of London in the second part of a story which began in last month's Olympic Games closing ceremony.

It was the first time an organising committee has used the same themes and told a story in two halves for both handover segments.

A London bus – an iconic image of the British capital according to Locog – was once again at the centrepiece of the eight-minute performance which married sport and culture.

Yet while the Olympic handover included appearances by stars like Leona Lewis and David Beckham, the Paralympics parade featured the next generation of talent. Television personality Ade Adepitan, a wheelchair basketball bronze medallist in Athens, led the double-decker into the stadium along with Gareth Picken, a nine-year-old wheelchair gymnast and competition winner on "Blue Peter", and a throng of dancers. Drummer Cherisse Osei, who plays percussion for British singer Mika, emerged from the bus on an elevator followed by Lord Nelson, surveying all before him from his column and selected for being an iconic image of London.

But this depiction had a twist, illustrating Britain's ability to be respectfully irreverent. Sam Hegedus, as Admiral Nelson – one of the most famous national heroes with a disability – replaced the customary eye patch and sword with sunglasses and a guitar.

The dynamic procession around the Bird's Nest stadium showed London as a diverse, energetic and engaging city without ignoring British institutions and a touch of humour, part of the segment featured a tea lady surrounded by cakes and sandwiches in a moment designed to show that everything stops for a cup of tea.

Eight of the winners of Britain's 42 gold medals were part of the party, with wheelchair racers David Weir and Shelly Woods, the boccia team of Dan Bentley, Nigel Murray, David Smith and Zoe Robinson and swimmers David Roberts and Eleanor Simmonds, the youngest member of the British team at 13, all in attendance.

Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London 2012 Organising Committee, said: "The Beijing Paralympic Games closing ceremony was spectacular and we are proud to have taken part in it and to present a snapshot of London and the UK to the world. Our segment was a statement of intent that our Games will be inspiring and fun and get the whole world involved.

"I congratulate Beijing for being superb hosts for both Games, to the Chinese team for topping the Paralympic medals table, and to ParalympicsGB for a stunning performance in coming second."

Golden wonders: Five of Britain's best Paralympic performers in Beijing

Eleanor Simmonds

The 13-year-old from Walsall became Britain's youngest individual Paralympic champion with gold in the S6 100m Freestyle and followed that up by winning the S6 400m Freestyle.

Darren Kenny

Mirrored Britain's success in the Velodrome at the Olympics. Won four golds and one silver in the cycling to go with the two golds and a silver he won at Athens.

Anne Dunham

Won a gold in four consecutive Paralympics – a British first – the 59-year-old from Wiltshire triumphing in the individual dressage event.

David Weir

The 29-year-old wheelchair racer waited 12 years for a gold then won two in three days in the T54 800m and the T54 1500m.

David Roberts

The Welsh swimmer equalled Dame Tani Grey-Thompson's record of 11 Paralympic golds with four victories in the Water Cube.

Final medals table

Nation/G/S/B/Total

1 China 87/68/52/207

2 Great Britain 42/29/31/102

3 US 36/34/28/98

4 Ukraine 24/18/31/73

5 Australia 22/29/27/78

6 South Africa 21/3/5/29

7 Canada 19/10/21/50

8 Russia 18/23/21/62

9 Spain 15/21/22/58

10 Brazil 15/13/17/45

11 Germany 14/25/20/59

12 France 11/21/19/51

13 South Korea 10/8/13/31

14 Tunisia 9/9/3/21

15 Mexico 9/3/7/19

16 Czech Republic 6/3/18/27

17 Poland 5/12/13/30

18 Japan 5/12/7/24

19 Netherlands 5/10/7/22

20 Greece 5/9/10/24

21 Belarus 5/7/1/13

22 Iran 5/6/3/14

23 Cuba 5/3/6/14

24 New Zealand 5/3/4/12

24 Sweden 5/3/4/12

26 Kenya 5/3/1/9

27 Hong Kong 5/2/3/10

28 Italy 4/7/5/16

29 Egypt 4/4/4/12

30 Nigeria 4/4/1/9

31 Algeria 4/3/8/15

32 Morocco 4/1/2/7

33 Denmark 3/2/4/9

34 Austria 3/1/1/5

34 Ireland 3/1/1/5

36 Croatia 3/1/0/4

37 Azerbaijan 2/3/5/10

38 Slovakia 2/3/1/6

39 Switzerland 2/2/5/9

40 Finland 2/2/2/6

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