'Paralympic link burns stronger than ever after Flame Lighting ceremony'
The link is stronger than ever between Stoke Mandeville, the birthplace of the Paralympic movement, and the Paralympic Games after the Heritage Flame Lighting Ceremony on Friday 2 September, say organisers.
Aylesbury Vale District Council led on the organisation of the event for the Bucks Legacy Board. The event’s theme was ‘Seeds of Diversity’, celebrating how the first Stoke Mandeville Games organised by Sir Ludwig Guttmann in 1948 have blossomed into a worldwide sporting phenomenon. The area is proud of its ongoing links with the international sports competition for the highest performing Para athletes.
On 6 September the Heritage Flame was combined with the five Brazilian regional flames to create the Paralympic Flame which will officially open the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on 7 September.
Cllr Angela Macpherson, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Communities and Civic Amenities, said: “The event on Friday was a wonderful way to send the Heritage Flame on its way, together with our support for the ParalympicsGB team. If our athletes felt even a fraction of the massive amount of positivity that Friday’s event generated, they’ll know that there is huge support and pride here for what they are doing in Rio. Thanks to everyone involved in making the event such a success.”
Bradley Hemmings, artistic director of “The Seeds of Diversity” said: “Last Friday’s ceremony was very special for me, not only connecting me back to the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, but also recapturing the amazing spirit of that incredible year, demonstrating once again the importance of the Paralympics in putting disabled people centre stage. I was very proud of how our professional and volunteer cast came together with Paralympic athletes Kelly Gallagher and Baroness Grey-Thompson to create such a wonderful occasion, which seems to have connected so emotionally with audiences both at Stoke Mandeville itself and through live TV coverage on Channel 4.”
Bucks resident Sally Alford was one of the volunteer dancers participating in the ceremony and was watched by her family in the audience: “It was a wonderful event in which to be involved, so inspiring. My family thoroughly enjoyed it all too. My grandson Isaac thought it was ‘amazing’!”
The flame was ignited during a spectacular ceremony in the stadium watched by an audience 1500 people. Professional dancers and performers were joined by volunteers, with former wheelchair racer Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE and skier Kelly Gallagher MBE taking centre stage at the glittering event.
Another 3,000 people joined in celebrations at Vale Park in Aylesbury, where the Flame arrived at the head of a parade of 250 disabled people and was passed hand to hand before Invictus Games participant Luke Delahunty used it to set off a stunning firework display.