The UK’s position as the birthplace of the Paralympics was celebrated this week with a ceremony that “created” part of the flame that will burn throughout the Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi.
Hannah Cockroft, a double gold medal-winner from London 2012, generated the flames that were then used by Caz Walton, who competed in eight Paralympic Games, including Tokyo in 1964, to light a torch and cauldron.
The flame created during the ceremony was later flown to Russia, where it was merged yesterday (5 March) in Sochi with flames created by all eight Russian federal districts.
In all, parts of the flame visited 45 Russian cities and Dezhneva Cape (Russia’s easternmost point), as well as Stoke Mandeville.
It was the first time there has been an international leg of a Paralympic torch relay, and a similar ceremony will now take place in Stoke Mandeville before every future winter and summer Paralympics, mirroring the role of Greece in the Olympic Games.
The ceremony was directed by Bradley Hemmings, the disabled co-artistic director of the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
It included an animated film by the disabled artist Rachel Gadsden, Stoke Mandeville Stadium’s artist-in-residence, and film-maker Abigail Norris.
Cockroft had been suspended in the centre of the Armillary Sphere, a six-metre tall model of stars and planets, and lit the flame by propelling her wheelchair.
The sphere – designed by Jon Bausor to represent a constellation in the night sky that celebrates the Paralympic Games – will be used for future flame-lighting events in Stoke Mandeville.
Following the ceremony, four disabled people – each one representing a different aspect of disability sport – travelled to Sochi to take part in the torch relay.
Tim Reddish, retired Paralympian and chair of the British Paralympic Association (BPA), was joined by disabled student Andrew Norman, from Valence School in Kent, wheelchair basketball player and coach Andy White, who also volunteers with wheelchair sport charity WheelPower, and wheelchair fencer Gemma Collis, who competed at London 2012.
Reddish said: “The BPA is very proud that our nation is recognised as the birthplace of the Paralympic movement and we showed the world how passionate about Paralympic sport we are in the UK in 2012.
“The moment the cauldron is lit is always very special for the athletes as it signifies the start of the games that they have all worked so hard for.
“This time around, knowing that a part of it was created in the UK will make the ParalympicsGB athletes about to compete in Sochi especially proud.”
Cockroft said: “I’ve said before that the most fantastic moments of my life were winning gold medals for ParalympicsGB in 2012, but this is definitely up there with London 2012.
“I just can’t put into words how proud I am to have been involved in such an historic moment for the Paralympic movement in this country.”
6 March 2014