Cauldron lighting sparks NI Paralympic celebrations
A cauldron has been lit at Northern Ireland's seat of government to mark the Paralympic Games taking place in London.
Paralympian Angela Hendra was given the honour of lighting the bowl in front of Stormont.
The ceremony took place ahead of celebrations in Belfast, Cookstown, Ballymena, Derry, Newry, Carrickfergus, Strabane and Lisburn.
The Belfast Flame Festival culminates with celebrations at City Hall.
The festival runs from 18:30 BST to 21:40 BST and a lantern procession will accompany eight torchbearers as the Northern Ireland flame is carried from the Belfast Waterfront to the stage in front of Belfast City Hall.
The cauldron was lit using the Northern Ireland flame which was created on Wednesday 22 August on Slieve Donard by a team of local scouts.
Angela has medals - three silver and three bronze for table tennis and one gold medal for Bowls - from four Paralympic Games between 1972 and 1984.
She has also worked as a volunteer in disability sport for 40 years and is chairwoman of Disability Sports NI.
"I just can't believe that the Paralympics have come to the UK and that we are here at Stormont and it's lit," she told the BBC.
"I know it will keep on burning for many years to come, even longer after it's extinguished after the Paralympic Games."
Dr Janet Gray, Northern Ireland's world disabled water skiing champion has been invited by LOCOG to carry the flame as part of the Belfast Flame Festival in recognition of her work as president of Disability Sports NI.
Hugh Russell, the former Irish boxer who won a flyweight bronze medal at the 1980 summer Olympics in Moscow will also carry the flame as part of the Belfast Flame Festival. Russell also won a bronze medal at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, representing Northern Ireland.
The last torchbearer will light a celebration cauldron at the stage.
Northern Ireland's Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin said the ceremony should be about the inspiration of the games.
"Just as with the Olympic Torch relay, the Paralympic Flame festivities in Ireland are a showcase for all that is good and positive about our society," she said.
"Today is about celebrating worthwhile projects and inspirational people while showing support for those from Ireland taking part in the Paralympic Games."
See the flame in your area
Representatives for these towns and cities will collect the Flame from Stormont and take them to their celebrations at the following locations: (all events take place on Saturday 25 August 2012)
- Cookstown - Mid Ulster Sports Arena is hosting a family fun day to showcase a range of disability sports and taster activities to welcome the national flame between 16:00 BST and 19:00 BST.
- Ballymena - The Braid Arts Centre will host an arts and disability showcase day for the Paralympic Torch Relay between 14:00 BST and 23:00 BST.
- Derry - A series of sports taster sessions for the whole family to be held at the Live Site in Waterloo Place between 13:00 BST and 17:00 BST.
- Newry and Mourne - An athletics event for young people will be held at St Colman's College, Newry for youngsters to try out new sport in celebration of the Olympic and Paralympic Games between 12:00 BST and 14:30 BST.
- Carrickfergus - A family event will be hosted on Castle Green between 12:00 BST and 20:00 BST, the event includes lantern-making workshops, food demonstrations, lantern procession and lots more.
- Strabane -The Melvin Sports Complex will host a celebratory event with a lantern procession, fun activities and have-a-go-sessions including the Disability Sports NI 5 Star Challenge between 13:30 BST and 17:00 BST.
- Lisburn - Between 11:oo BST and 13:00BST at Wallace Park Lisburn, activities will be run for children including the Disability Sports NI 5 Star Challenge.
- Greater Belfast - Sainsbury's Hollywood Exchange Store (10:00 BST), Ozone Leisure Centre (11:00 BST), Anderstown Leisure Centre (12:00 BST), Belfast Children's Hospice (13:00 BST), The 174 Trust (14:15 BST), The Titanic Museum (15:15 BST)
Locog chairman Seb Coe said: "Creating the Northern Ireland Flame through human endeavour at the summit of Slieve Donard will ensure that the spirit of Northern Ireland is represented in the Paralympic Flame that will burn bright inside the Olympic Stadium during ten days of amazing sport.
"The visits the flame is making to communities across Northern Ireland will help light the way to the Paralympic Games and we look forward to celebrating the amazing achievements of the Northern Ireland torchbearers who all embody the paralympic values of courage, determination, inspiration and equality that every paralympian represents."
Northern Ireland Secretary of State Owen Paterson, said: "With less than a week to go until the biggest and best Paralympics ever - it's inspirational to hear about, and to celebrate, the achievements of the torchbearers who'll be shining a light on Northern Ireland.
"The Paralympic Games are set to be a fantastic celebration of world-class sport - with more countries, more athletes and more spectators than ever before."