Paralympics: Park life returns as the first of 2.5 million fans head through gates

Crowds deliver a thumbs-up to curtain-raiser and look forward to sporting spectacles

After two weeks of relative calm in Stratford, the park gates were thrown open once more last night and tens of thousands of sports fans from around the globe flocked to the stadium for the third, fireworks-filled ceremony of London 2012.

The contents of last night's spectacular had been a closely-guarded secret, and yet those with tickets were confident that a treat was in store. No fewer than four of Peter Farnfield's friends took part in the Paralympic Opening Ceremony. Yet as the 26-year-old arrived at the Olympic Park to take his seat in the stadium he knew no better than anybody else what to expect from the show.

Mr Farnfield, who is from Marlow in Buckinghamshire and has cerebral palsy, won't get to see any of the sport in person. "We applied for swimming and athletics tickets too, but only my mum and dad got those," he said. "I didn't get a wheelchair ticket." Yet even that disappointment had not diminished his enthusiasm for the Games, which he said "are going to showcase what we can do".

In all, 2.5 million tickets for the Paralympics will be sold. Among the tens of thousands of people streaming into the Stadium for the ceremony was spina bifida sufferer Sam Lightowler. "I tried for Olympics tickets but didn't get any, but got everything I asked for for the Paralympics," he said. "I hope the Games help people understand disability."

Spectators sported Team GB tattoos, while some voiced their scepticism over Anish Kapoor's divisive red Orbit sculpture. So far, so similar to the Olympics. But unlike the Games, the atmosphere was less corporate and more relaxed.

As they made their way in, each visitor was handed an apple for an interactive part of the ceremony. Games maker Kathy Sullivan dished out hundreds. "I'm just telling people not to eat them until they're asked," she said.

They travelled from far and wide. Clements Stegmiller, 21, who makes prosthetic limbs and other mobility devices in southern Germany, made his first trip to London for the ceremony. "What they can achieve is just too fantastic," he enthused, proudly boasting of seven days' worth of tickets.

There were hopes among the crowd that the legacy of the Paralympics would be an increase in the number of people trying disability sports. Chris Humphries from High Wycombe, whose SportsAble club plays host to Team GB archer Kathy Critchlow-Smith, said: "We have lots of spare capacity at the club so we really hope the Paralympics inspires disabled people to join and try a sport. I really wanted to see the stadium so am delighted we got tickets."

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little