London 2012: Cauldron is lit, now the athletes get set to fire up spectators
Best-ever Paralympic Games will simply 'blow away' the watching public, says Lord Coe
The cauldron has been lit in Trafalgar Square, under a giant Paralympic logo, as London moves back into Games gear. London 2012 chairman Lord Coe predicted that many people watching Paralympic events for the first-time will be “blown away”.
There were huge cheers as paralysed former professional horse rider Claire Lomas, who walked the London Marathon route in April using a bionic suit, ignited the cauldron outside the National Gallery. "It was nerve-racking, amazing. It was a real honour to be asked," she said. "It was one of the best moments of my life."
London Mayor Boris Johnson described the Olympics as "an overture" and an "antipasto" to what will be the "greatest ever Paralympics". Speaking alongside Mr Johnson in front of hundreds of spectators, David Cameron said the event would again show the world there is "no city like London".
Twenty-six flame ambassadors each collected a "splinter" of the flame, in a lantern to take back to celebrations being held around the country.
The torch relay is due to begin at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, where the Paralympic Games began in 1948, making a 92-mile journey to Stratford before the opening ceremony on Wednesday. Organisers expect hundreds of thousands of people will seize the chance to see the torch as it passes through their neighbourhood.
"We have now sold about 2.3 million tickets. Our target was always to get to 2.5 million and we will," said Paul Deighton, the Chief Executive of Locog, the organising committee.
The tickets are cheaper than the 8.8m tickets for the Olympics. Mr Deighton hopes that 100,000 of the remaining tickets will be sold before the Games and a further 100,000 will go on sale in daily increments during the Paralympics.
Multi-sport day passes are available, which will give ticket holders access to several different sports, from wheelchair rugby to goalball and sitting volleyball.
Martine Wright, who lost her legs in the 7/7 bombings, is a member of the sitting volleyball team.
"I can't believe it's just days away now, I can't wait," said Ms Wright, who lives in Tring, Hertfordshire. "We've been watching the countdown for so many days, months and years and I can't wait to get there now."
Ms Wright was one of the last survivors to be pulled from the train at which was bombed at Aldgate station. She spent 10 days in a coma and 10 months in hospital. She said she "fell in love with sitting volleyball" the first time she played. "It's absolutely brilliant. It's a unique sport, I found it quite liberating to be able to get on to the floor and do a sport without adaptive equipment, like a wheelchair."
Lord Coe said he was particularly looking forward to watching marathon wheelchair racer David Weir and is also excited about wheelchair rugby. "Anyone who hasn't seen it is in for a surprise. When I was training and was on my way to the track I had a checklist. Spikes? Coach? And so on. Not oxyacetylene torch and welder."
GB's flag-bearer: Peter Norfolk
He is already the bearer of two gold medals and next Wednesday, Peter Norfolk, British wheelchair tennis player, will wear the Union Flag at the Paralympic Opening Ceremony.
Norfolk, who won gold in the Quad Singles event at Beijing in 2008 and Athens in 2004, is the current world number three in singles and number one in doubles, in which he also has a bronze and a silver medal. He became an athlete following a motorbike accident which left him paraplegic and wheelchair bound.
Yesterday he said he was "absolutely blown away" to be selected to carry the flag. "It was a huge surprise when I was told and I feel it is a very great honour," he said. "I'm really looking forward to competing in the London 2012 Paralympics, and I'm eager to get to the Village and Eton Manor and get going now. I can feel the excitement is really building as everyone is talking about the Games and getting behind the athletes… I'm very humbled to lead in the Paralympics GB team that I'm sure can make Great Britain proud."
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