London will bid an “exuberant” farewell to the 2012 Paralympic Games with a closing ceremony billed by organizers as “a Festival of Flame”.
British band Coldplay will lead the show, due to start at 20:30 BST, with a live set reflecting the four seasons.
Athletes will be in the centre of the Stadium at the start, and there will be a tribute to charity Help for Heroes.
The event ends what organizers say has been the most successful event in Paralympic history.
China has finished top of the Paralympic medals table, with 231 medals – 95 gold. Great Britain cemented third place behind Russia, with a tally of 120, including 34 golds.
London will bid an exuberant farewell to the 2012 Paralympic Games with a closing ceremony billed by organizers as a Festival of Flame
Apart from Coldplay’s music, Sunday’s sold-out ceremony will feature performances by Jay-Z and Rihanna, alongside a cast of around 1,200 performers.
“The idea is the coming together as one,” said artistic director Kim Gavin.
“We are known as a nation for having the most festivals, it is something that we do – with 600 festivals a year.
“We pay tribute to the all the human spirit and achievement through this wonderful sport of the last two weeks.”
Kim Gavin hinted that would be “a few surprises” and that, “with it being a festival of the flame there will be a lot of flame – and the whole show will be very exciting”.
“The Festival of the Flame celebrates the exuberance of festivals and the changing of the seasons,” added 2012 organizers LOCOG.
Some 120 child volunteers from east London are expected to take part in tonight’s show, with disabled aerial performers from Circus Scape and The British Paraorchestra.
Organizing committee chairman Lord Sebastian Coe said: “It has been fantastic. We get Paralympics sport in this country. I never really doubted that the Paralympic Games would be anything other than a show-stopper.”
Queen Elizabeth II has declared the London 2012 Paralympics officially open, during a spectacular opening ceremony watched by some 80,000 spectators.
Britain’s first Paralympic Games gold medallist, Margaret Maughan, 84, had the honor of lighting the cauldron.
Paralympics chief Lord Sebastian Coe told the crowd: “Prepare to be inspired, prepare to be dazzled, prepare to be moved.”
The Queen said: “The Games are returning to the country where they first began, more than 60 years ago.”
Earlier, athletes paraded around the Olympic Stadium, with Paralympics GB entering last to huge cheers.
The opening ceremony, co-directed by Jenny Sealey and Bradley Hemmings, signalled the start of 11 days of competition by 4,200 athletes from 164 countries, including more than 300 athletes from the home nation.
Queen Elizabeth II has declared the London 2012 Paralympics officially open, during a spectacular opening ceremony watched by some 80,000 spectators
Wheelchair basketball, shooting, swimming and track cycling are among the events set to feature on the opening day.
Lord Coe told the crowd at the east London stadium: “It is my great honor to say welcome home to the Paralympic Games.”
Eight members of the British under-22 wheelchair basketball team were given the honor of carrying the Paralympic flag into the stadium. It was raised by members of the armed forces, before the Queen declared the Games open.
British swimmer Liz Johnson, a medallist from Beijing 2008, wheelchair rugby judge Richard Allcroft and David Hunter, who is coaching the Paralympics GB equestrian team, each stepped forward to take the official oaths on behalf of competitors and officials.
At the close of the ceremony, 24-year-old Royal Marine Commando Joe Townsend – an aspiring Olympic triathlete, who lost both legs while serving in Afghanistan – descended on a zip wire into the stadium from the top of the nearby Orbit tower.
He handed the flame to David Clarke, a member of the Parlympics GB five-a-side football team, who passed the torch to Margaret Maughan, who won gold in archery at the 1960 Rome Paralympics.
She lit a tiny flame on the ground, igniting more than 200 copper petals. Long stems then rose towards each other to form a cauldron, signifying unity.
Like the impressive Olympic cauldron, it was made by designer Thomas Heatherwick, and 166 of the petals bore the names of competing nations at the London 2012 Paralympics.
Bradley Hemmings said it was “extremely spectacular and like nothing you have seen in previous ceremonies”.
The Paralympics GB athletes earlier entered the stadium to David Bowie’s Heroes, led by Peter Norfolk, the two-time Paralympic wheelchair tennis champion, who carried the union jack. He later described it as a “wow moment”.
In one heart-stopping moment during the show, six Paralympians and former competitors – including Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson – were flown into the stadium in golden wheelchairs.
Disabled ex-serviceman David Rawlins flew a twin-engined Tecnam P2006 light aircraft over the stadium to kick off the proceedings.
A sphere ignited the “big bang” – something which Prof. Stephen Hawking, a world-renowned physicist who has motor neurone disease, has written about extensively – to start the show and fireworks lit up the stadium.
Prof. Stephen Hawking and actor Sir Ian McKellen played prominent roles in the ceremony, which also featured a host of deaf and disabled artists, local children and performers newly-trained in circus skills.
Some 3,000 volunteers took part in the event, which organizers entitled Enlightenment and said was “profoundly about science and humanity”.
Throughout the ceremony, Prof. Stephen Hawking acted as a guide to Miranda – a character from William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, who was central to the show – while actor Sir Ian played Prospero, another character from the play.
Inspired by uncertain British weather, umbrellas were also a big theme in the ceremony, which was described as “both spectacular and deeply human” by organizers.
The Queen was welcomed by Sir Philip Craven, President of the International Paralympic Committee, before the union jack was carried in by representatives of the armed forces.
It is the first time the monarch has officiated at the openings of both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Teams from all 164 countries paraded into the stadium to music mixed and played by three London-based DJs.
The Paralympic torch began its journey in Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire, the spiritual home of the Paralympic Games, on Tuesday night.
It was carried by 580 torchbearers in total, and after being carried past some of London’s most famous landmarks, was used to light a scaled-down version of the Olympic cauldron.
The torch had earlier been delayed but Games organizers LOCOG confirmed the flame arrived at the stadium in time to light the cauldron.
More than 2.4 million tickets for events have already been sold, including half a million to overseas visitors.
In a statement released before she opened the Games, the Queen said: “It is with tremendous pride that the people of London and the United Kingdom welcome the world to the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
“We look forward to celebrating the uplifting spirit which distinguishes the Paralympic Games from other events, drawing on Britain’s unique sporting heritage.”
Paralympics in numbers
• 4,280 athletes from 166 countries are to compete throughout the 11 days of sport
• Over 2.4 million tickets have been sold so far – including half a million to visitors from abroad
• There are 503 gold medals to be won in 21 sports
A scientist who will be monitoring athletes at the Paralympic Games says a third of competitors with spinal injuries may be harming themselves to boost their performance.
The practice, called “boosting”, is designed to increase blood pressure and enhance performance.
It’s banned by the International Paralympics Committee (IPC), but some researchers say these are the desperate acts of athletes trying to compete on a level playing field.
“There have been times where I would specifically give my leg or my toe a couple of really good electric shocks” says Brad Zdanivsky, a 36-year-old Canadian quadriplegic climber who has experimented with boosting in the gym.
“That would make my blood pressure jump up and I could do more weights and cycle harder – it is effective.”
One British journalist with years of experience covering the Paralympics says he has heard of athletes using small hammers to crack or break a toe.
The point of these activities is to raise the athlete’s blood pressure and heart rate.
When able-bodied competitors engage in hard physical activities like running or swimming, blood pressure and heart rate increase automatically. Athletes with spinal injuries do not get that response. “Boosting” is a short cut to higher blood pressure and the improved performance that comes with it.
In medical terms it’s defined as the deliberate induction of a dangerous condition common to quadriplegics called autonomic dysreflexia (AD). Many everyday activities that cause discomfort, even something as trivial as sunburn, can set off the condition naturally.
A scientist who will be monitoring athletes at the Paralympic Games says a third of competitors with spinal injuries may be harming themselves to boost their performance
Brad Zdanivsky turned to boosting when his spine was crushed in a car accident in 1994, because he didn’t want the injury to curb his passion for mountain climbing.
“I tried several different ways of doing it. You can allow your bladder to fill, basically don’t go to the bathroom for a few hours and let that pain from your bladder do it.
“Some people do that in sports by clipping off a catheter to let the bladder fill – that’s the easiest and the most common – and you can quickly get rid of that pain stimulus by letting the urine drain out.
“I took it a notch further by using an electrical stimulus on my leg, my toe and even my testicles.”
But boosting comes at a price.
“You are getting a blood pressure spike that could quite easily blow a vessel behind your eye or cause a stroke in your brain,” says Brad Zdanivsky
“It can actually stop your heart. It’s very unpleasant, but the results are hard to deny. The saying is that winners always want the ball, so it doesn’t matter if it’s unpleasant, it gets results.”
The IPC has been aware of the problem for many years. Boosting has been banned since 1994.
But remarkably little scientific research has been done to assess how many athletes are willing to take these extreme measures to improve their performance.
A survey carried out by the IPC during the Beijing Paralympics indicated that around 17% of those who responded had used boosting. Some experts believe the real figure could be higher.
Could it be as high as 30%?
Dr. Andrei Krassioukov, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia and an experienced researcher into spinal injuries replied: “Correct. It is possible.”
“I will tell you right now as a physician people want to feel better, first of all – they feel better with their blood pressure higher. But a second thing driving it is the desire to win, to have a fair playing field with other paralympic athletes who have higher blood pressure.”
While many athletes with spinal injuries will suffer from low blood pressure, there is considerable variation from one individual to the next.
“There is still a disadvantage between paralympians who have normal blood pressure and those who don’t and this puts a significant number of athletes at a disadvantage,” Dr. Andrei Krassioukov says.
“As a physician I totally understand why these Olympians are doing this, but as a scientist I am horrified with these events.”
He believes that changes to the system of classification would help – for example by changing the points system that aims to ensure that teams with a roughly equal level of overall disability compete against one another in wheelchair rugby and basketball.
Currently, the system takes no account of blood pressure and heart rate.
IPC Chief Medical Officer Peter Van de Vliet says he has no data that would support or disprove Andrei Krassioukov’s estimate that up to 30% of paralympians with spinal injuries engage in boosting.
It’s an unacceptable practice, he says, and the IPC has no sympathy with the idea that it levels the field of play.
The IPC has no plans to add physiological characteristics into their classification systems, he adds.
“Paralympic qualification for athletes with physical impairment is on the basis of a neuro-muscular-skeletal impairment rather than a physiological one,” he says.
During the Beijing games, the IPC carried out about 20 blood pressure checks on athletes before events. They didn’t find any clear evidence of people boosting.
The IPC says it will continue to monitor athletes closely before events at the London games.
Anyone they suspect is boosting – symptoms include sweating, skin blotchiness and goose bumps – will be subjected to blood pressure checks.
If athletes are found to have a systolic blood pressure of 180 mm of mercury or above, they will not be allowed to compete in “the particular competition in question”. But they will not receive a long-term ban.
Brad Zdanivsky argues that checks like this will not be effective in cutting out boosting. He says you would need to test an athlete’s blood pressure regularly over a sustained period to be able to know for sure whether any given reading was natural or “boosted”.
“There is no real solution, it is an ugly can of worms that no-one wants to open it and talk about,” says Brad Zdanivsky.
He believes that only a tragic event will bring the problem out into the open.
“What’s going to happen one day is that someone is going to have a stroke right on the court and then they are going to have to talk about it.”
Common boosting techniques
• Overfilling the bladder, by clamping a catheter
• Sitting on a drawing pin
• Use of tight leg straps
• Twisting and/or sitting on the scrotum
• Cracking or breaking a bone
IPC rules on boosting
• The IPC forbids athletes to compete in a hazardous dysreflexic state
• A hazardous dysreflexic state is considered to be present when the systolic blood pressure is 180 mm Hg or above
• An examination may be undertaken by physicians or paramedical staff… at any time
• Any deliberate attempt to induce Autonomic Dysreflexia is forbidden… the athlete will be disqualified from the particular competition
Three members of the Jordanian Paralympian squad facing sex charges have been pulled out of this year’s Paralympic Games.
Faisal Hammash, Omar Sami Qaradhi and Motaz Al-Junadi are charged with sex offences in Antrim.
LOCOG said they had been told by the Jordanian National Paralympic Committee that they would not be entering the athletes into the games.
They said the athletes had returned to Jordan.
On Wednesday, a court in Coleraine, County Londonderry, heard that The King of Jordan has taken a personal interest in the case.
A Jordanian embassy official offered bail sureties at the hearing.
Bail of £500 ($793) was granted with a surety of £5,000 ($7,937) from the Jordanian government for each defendant.
Faisal Hammash, Omar Sami Qaradhi and Motaz Al-Junadi are charged with sex offences in Antrim
The case had been adjourned while the judge considered the bail applications.
The squad is one of several international teams using the Antrim Forum sports complex as a training base in advance of the Games which begin in London next week.
The three men, two of whom compete in wheelchairs, are all members of the Jordanian Paralympics power-lifting team.
Faisal Hammash, 35, faces two counts of causing a child to engage in sexual activity.
Omar Sami Qaradhi, 31, is charged with three counts of sexual assault and one of voyeurism. At least two of the assaults were against children.
Motaz Al-Junadi, 45, faces one charge of sexual assault. All the offences took place between 16 and 20 August.
King Abdullah’s interest in the case was reported by one of his government officials who promised to return the accused men to Coleraine Court following the games if bail was granted.
The Jordanian Embassy in London released a statement saying it regretted the incidents that had led to the charges of the three members of the paralympic team.
“In line with its duties towards its citizens, the embassy provided direct consular support to the three members of the team charged with the offences,” it said.
“A senior diplomat from the embassy attended the hearings this morning at the Magistrates Court in Antrim, and posted bail for the three sportsmen pending their reappearance in Belfast for their trial in October.
“The embassy wishes to further express its appreciation to the courts for promptly appointing a defence lawyer for the three men and facilitating its Consular services to its citizens.
“The embassy in London wishes to reassure the courts of its continued cooperation and maintains utmost respect for the due process of the law.”
The famous Maracanã football stadium, the venue for the 1950 World Cup, is being redeveloped for the 2014 finals, which Brazil is also hosting, and the 2016 Olympic opening and closing ceremonies
Football will also be held in cities across the country – São Paulo, Brasília, Belo Horizonte and Salvador.
The famous Maracanã football stadium, the venue for the 1950 World Cup, is being redeveloped for the 2014 finals, which Brazil is also hosting, and the 2016 Olympic opening and closing ceremonies.
Organizers said construction was running on time and they were “delivering on our promises” to transform the city and transportation network.
They said London Games organizers LOCOG had been sharing with them information on how to organize a Games.
Some detail about Brazil’s eight-minute part of the London closing ceremony was also revealed.
It will feature diva Marisa Monte, model Alessandra Ambrosio, Renato Sorriso – a dancer and street cleaner who sweeps up between samba schools appearing at the Rio carnival, 82 drummers and the rapper Bnegao.
Rehearsals have been taking place in Greenwich and Dagenham, where the London ceremonies have also practiced.
Dancers will wear outfits including gold lamé flared bodysuits and the artistic directors said it would feature “pure samba” with roots in Brazilian percussion.
This summer millions of people will visit London and the UK for the 2012 Olympic Games which promise to be an unforgettable experience. London is a vibrant and exciting city but this summer there will be lots more to enjoy including many free fun and interesting events being held because the Olympics is taking place in and around the city.
World-class sporting action will be taking place not only in London but also in other venues across the UK as part of both the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Visitors will be able to enjoy the sporting action not only t the venues but in some streets and roads in and around the capital where trials in some events will be taking place such as cycling.
The Olympic Games start on 27 July and run until 12 August 2012.
The Paralympic Games begin on 29 August 20012 and close on 9 September 2012.
During the London 2012 Olympic Games top sportsmen and women from across the world will be competing in 26 sports which break down into 39 disciplines. There are 20 sports in the Paralympic schedule in the London 2012 Games. An Olympic Park has been created on 2.5sq km of land in east London from former industrial land that has been rapidly transformed over the last few years in preparation for the Games.
The new parkland contains thousands of trees and plants and is where the main Olympic Stadium has been built. The stadium which has a capacity of 80,000 for the Games is located in the south of the Olympic Park on an ‘island’ site surrounded by waterways on three sides. Spectators reach the venue via five bridges that link the site to the surrounding area.
Sports taking place in the Olympic Park include Athletics, Basketball, Cycling and Hockey. Other sports such as gymnastics, football and beach volleyball will take place in venues around the capital. Some of the venues in London are located near some of the capital’s most famous tourist attractions such as on the Mall opposite Buckingham Palace and on Horse Guards Parade.
Some trials will take place on the roads of stunning landmarks. For example the cycling trials will take place on the roads around the stunning Hampton Court Palace, formerly home to many famous monarchs. There will also be other sports such as football taking place at venues elsewhere in the UK.
There is a wide range of services and facilities in the Park, around the Olympic Stadium including plenty of cafes, food and drink stands, toilets and baby-changing facilities.
Aerial shoot: Olympic Park
It is very unlikely that you can get a ticket for the Olympics on arrival in the City as they will all have been sold prior to the big even but there may be a kiosk set up outside the stadium for ticket re-sales although that has not been confirmed at the moment. And beware of scams and unauthorized websites fraudulently pretending to sell official tickets
There will be huge screens set up in several major parks in the city such as Hyde Park where visitors will be able to watch the Olympics live, for free. The trials for some events will be taking place on the capitals roads so you are likely to be able to action some of the world class action just from being in the right place at the right time.
Traveling to the venues
If you are one of the lucky ticket holders make sure you plan your travel well in advance of the event you are going to watch. Often the organizers are asking people to arrive up to two and a half hours before their session starts especially if it’s at the Olympic stadium so that they will have plenty of time to get through security which will be similar to that at airports. At other venues such as at Horse Guards Parade, 90 minutes in advance.
One soft-sided bag is allowed per person – for example, a medium-sized handbag or small backpack (maximum 25 liters). The bag should be small enough to fit under your seat or on your lap. There is no place to store your luggage.
Like any other major city, London has a vast range of accommodation to cater all budgets, from luxury hotels to budget rooms. For some visitors their accommodation is secondary to the place and the purpose of their visit for others they love home furnishings and home accessories, but it is important to book your accommodation sooner rather than later because hundreds of thousands of people will be visiting the capital during the Games.
There will also be what’s called the London Festival held throughout the summer for ever visitor to enjoy, ticket holders and those who just want to soak up the atmosphere. The Festival will be packed with entertaining events, from theater performances, comedy and music both pop and classical to kids and family events as well as carnivals to get you into the party spirit