UK

Paralympic Games: Crowds line torch relay route

  • 29 August 2012
  • From the section UK

Thousands of people turned out to welcome the Paralympic flame as it travelled to the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony of the Games.

Crowds lined the route of the 24-hour torch relay which began in Stoke Mandeville on Tuesday night.

The relay ran more than two hours late but reduced breaks made up time.

A splinter flame was taken to the Stadium in case the delays were not overcome but the opening ceremony ran late and the flame made it on time.

A late-finishing ceremony in Stoke Mandeville and the time required for multiple exchanges of the flame between team members were blamed for the timing slipping throughout the relay.

Beatles' pose

Organisers Locog cut down on breaks and reduced the number of photo opportunities and a late-running opening ceremony meant the the flame was used to light the cauldron in the Olympic Stadium.

Crowds gathered in the market square in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, to watch the start of the relay and thousands more turned out overnight along the route to cheer on the torchbearers.

Image caption A team of torchbearers recreated the pose made famous by The Beatles on their 1969 Abbey Road album cover

After arriving in London, the flame, which is being carried by 580 torchbearers, was taken up the steps to Britain's first traditional Hindu temple, the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir temple in Brent, where a torch was lit at about 08:30 BST.

Barry Gardiner, MP for Brent, took part in a ceremony which involved pulling apart string made up of different threads and colours to "allow" the Paralympic torch through.

He said: "It was a very special moment. We have been waiting since 6.30am and the thrill and excitement is just fantastic. I don't think there has ever been a setting like this, for an Olympic or Paralympic flame."

In Maida Vale a team of torchbearers was cheered by crowds as the flame was carried over the Abbey Road crossing, made famous by The Beatles album cover.

At London Zoo in Regent's Park the flame was held aloft in the penguin enclosure by torchbearers Adam Hollick, John Craig, Fiona Forsyth, Charlie Humphrys and Aruna Mahtani.

All members of the team, who were previously unemployed and have disabilities including spinal cord injury, blindness and impaired mental health, have trained and qualified as gym fitness instructors.

Former boxer Michael Watson, wheelchair racer Dame Tanni Grey Thompson and Paralympic swimmer Chris Holmes were in the team who carried the flame along Regent Street and through Piccadilly Circus.

Torchbearer Edward Parker co-founded the Walking With The Wounded charity, which raises money to support injured servicemen and women.

He was nominated to carry the flame by Prince Harry.

The 46-year-old from Norwich was joined by fellow nominees, his nephew Harry Parker, 29, who lost both his legs in Afghanistan and Captain David Wiseman, 29, who was shot while fighting the Taliban.

The charity's co-founder Simon Daglish, 46, and his son Felix Daglish, who has cerebral palsy also joined the team.

Edward Parker said carrying the flame was "a very special thing to be able to do. I felt a bit humbled by the whole thing. It was an amazing feeling."

He added: "It was great going past Horse Guards [Parade] and the Ministry of Defence. It means a lot to have their support."

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