Prime Minister sees Paralympic cauldron lit in Trafalgar Square
Friday, 24 August 2012
August 24 - British Prime Minister David Cameron joined London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe and the city's Mayor Boris Johnson as a ceremonial cauldron was lit here today to launch the Paralympic Torch Relay.
Claire Lomas, who became the first person to complete a marathon in a bionic suit, lit the cauldron outside the National Gallery from the English national flame kindled on Scafell Pike earlier this week.
"The Olympic Games made our country proud," said Cameron.
"I believe these Paralympic Games will make our country prouder still.
"We are going to show the whole world that when it comes to putting on a show, there is no country like Britain and no city like London."
The Paralympics are on track to be sold out when the competition starts, with about 2.3 million tickets sold so far - more than any previous Paralympic Games.
Around 10 per cent of tickets are still to be sold, but are expected to be snapped up within days, although a limited few are also expected be put on daily sale during the course of the Games.
However, London 2012 chief executive Paul Dieghton warned people to expect to see some gaps in seating as spectators roam between sports and as a result of accredited seats left empty.
Johnson looked ahead to the start of the Games in his own unique way.
"1948 was an amazing year for this country," he said.
"The NHS, the first Land Rover, the first Routemaster bus was planned, Shakin' Stevens was born somewhere in Wales and the Paralympic Movement, which is something that's grown massively now.
"The success of the Paralympics tells us something about Britain and the way the country has changed.
"The Olympics showed what we can do and I think the Paralympics will show what kind of people we are, what's going on in our hearts."
Lomas, who was left paralysed from the chest down following a horse riding accident in 2007, walked the London Marathon earlier this year in a pioneering robotic suit, raising £204,000 ($320,000/€260,000) for Spinal Research.
"It was amazing," she said.
"I felt very proud and honoured to be asked to take part today.
"It was actually quite nerve-wracking.
"I was shaking before I went on but it went smoothly."
After she lit the cauldron, 26 Flame Ambassadors each collected a splinter of the flame in a lantern to take back to celebrations being held around the country.
The Flame visited a number of London's most famous landmarks, including the Royal Opera House and Houses of Parliament, as the capital geared up for the start of the Games.
The Flames will rest at Paralympic celebrations in Belfast, Edinburgh and Cardiff, along with London, before heading to Stoke Mandeville, where they will be united during a special ceremony on Tuesday (August 28) before a 24-hour relay to the opening of the Games at the Olympic Stadium.
The Relay will begin at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, the spiritual home of the Paralympic Movement.
It will then make a 92-mile journey to Stratford, arriving in time for the Opening Ceremony on Wednesday (August 29).
"The national Flame in England will help to light the way to the Paralympic Games," said Coe.
"It will also give people the chance to celebrate the amazing achievements of the inspirational Torchbearers who all embody the Paralympic values of courage, determination, inspiration and equality."
August 2012: London 2012 Paralympic Flame is lit in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland
August 2012: Environmental arts group create sculptures at Northala Fields for Paralympic Flame celebration
August 2012: Paralympic Flame to be created at summit of highest peaks of four Home Nations
February 2012: Sleek aluminium London 2012 Paralympic Torch unveiled
September 2011: New concept for 2012 Paralympic Torch Relay sees four flames lit across Britain