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.”
Iranian athlete Mehrdad Karam Zadeh refused to shake the Duchess of Cambridge’s hand after she presented him with his discus silver medal on Sunday.
The Royal was warmly received on the podium by Paralympic GB’s gold medal winner Aled Davies and Chinese bronze medallist Lezheng Wang – but when it was Mehrdad Karam Zadeh’s turn to step up, the 40-year-old failed to offer a hand to the Duchess, clutching them close to his chest.
His decision not to shake hands with the Duchess was likely to have been a result of Iranian cultural convention which bans such contact between unrelated men and women. The Duchess appeared to have been briefed on the situation, because she did not offer her hand either.
His decision not to shake her hand threatened to overshadow a glittering night for Paralympics GB, which enjoyed its most successful day of the Games so far with seven gold medals.
Iranian athlete Mehrdad Karam Zadeh refused to shake the Duchess of Cambridge's hand after she presented him with his discus silver medal on Sunday
The Iranian delegation in London have not been available to comment on the incident, but according to the Daily Telegraph, they have told Games organizers Mehrdad Karam Zadeh was not making a political statement.
It’s believed the athlete was merely conforming to Iranian cultural convention, forbidding men from shaking hands with unrelated women.
A spokesman for St. James’s Palace has revealed the Duchess was briefed beforehand and warned not to offer her hand to Mehrdad Karam Zadeh.
“Many male athletes from Islamic countries do not shake hands in public with women they are not related to for cultural and religious reasons,” the palace representative said.
The palace added Kate Middleton was “honored” to get the chance to present the medals, particularly to a British champion in Davies.
It’s not the first time the Iranian custom has caused controversy.
Last year the Iranian volleyball team had to apologize after several team members shook hands with a female referee after a game against Afghanistan.
The gesture provoked outrage and Iran’s state-owned media described the players’ behavior as “stunning and inappropriate”.
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.”