30 August 2012
Last updated at 00:23
The Queen has declared the London 2012 Paralympics officially open, during a spectacular opening ceremony watched by some 80,000 spectators.
Royal Marine Commando Joe Townsend - an aspiring Paralympic 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 passed the torch to Margaret Maughan, who won gold in archery at the Rome 1960 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.
Games chief Lord Coe told the crowd: "Prepare to be inspired, prepare to be dazzled, prepare to be moved."
The ParalympicsGB athletes entered the stadium to David Bowie's Heroes, led by Peter Norfolk, the two-time Paralympic wheelchair tennis champion, who carried the union jack.
Teams from all 165 countries paraded into the stadium in a section of the show called Spirit in Motion by the directors.
Eight members of the British under-22 wheelchair basketball team entered the stadium carrying the Paralympic flag, which was raised by members of the armed forces.
An aircraft trailing fireworks heralded the start of the show. The flypast was by Aerobility, a British charity that trains disabled people to become pilots.
Professor Stephen Hawking opened the event, speaking of the quest for understanding the universe. Organisers have said the show is "profoundly about science and humanity".
A glowing, celestial sphere descended into the middle of a giant central umbrella structure, igniting the ‘big bang’, of which Hawking has written extensively.
Throughout the ceremony, Prof Hawking has been acting as a guide to Miranda - a character from William Shakespeare's play The Tempest who is central to the show, played by actress Nicola Miles-Wildin.
Some 3,000 volunteers took part in the show. A back-up flame was earlier created at City Hall, to make certain the ceremony could start as planned, after a delay.
A large-scale reproduction of Marc Quinn’s celebrated sculpture, ‘Alison Lapper Pregnant’, emerged from a book-themed stage.
The Queen was welcomed by Sir Philip Craven, president of the International Paralympic Committee. It is the first time she has officiated at the openings of both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The union jack was carried in by representatives of the armed forces. Many Paralympians are drawn from service personnel.