Northern Ireland

Belfast marks Paralympic Games with celebration concert

Hundreds of people have gathered in Belfast city centre for celebrations to mark the Paralympic Games which are due to begin in London next week.

A cauldron was lit at Stormont on Saturday morning and the flame then visited seven other towns and cities in Northern Ireland throughout the day.

A procession of 150 lantern bearers travelled from Belfast Waterfront to City Hall on Saturday evening

The event culminated in a free concert and fireworks display in the grounds.

Popstar Joe McElderry, a former winner of TV talent shows X Factor and Pop Star to Opera Star, entertained the crowds.

There were also performances from the Open Arts Choir, dance project Luminous Soul, as well as displays by Disability Sport NI.

Spectators were able to watch a game of wheelchair basketball and get their photograph taken holding the torch.

Dr Janet Gray, Northern Ireland's world disabled water skiing champion, lit a cauldron in front of the crowds at about 21:20 BST.

She was given the honour in recognition of her work as president of Disability Sports NI.

Dr Grey said she was "overwhelmed" by the request.

"Its such an honour and a privilege to actually - not only be carrying the torch - but to be lighting the cauldron. It's absolutely wonderful," she said.

"It's lovely to be such a part of the whole Paralympic Games and we're very proud of our eight athletes who are going off to compete at the Games. So hopefully there will be lots of medals to come home too and I think it's just fabulous for the whole province."

Earlier on Saturday, the chairwoman of Disability Sports NI, Angela Hendra, lit a cauldron at the grounds of Stormont.

The former paralympian won seven medals - three silver and three bronze for table tennis and one gold medal for bowls - in four Paralympic Games between 1972 and 1984.

She has also worked as a volunteer in disability sport for 40 years.

The Paralympic flame was first kindled in Northern Ireland by a team of local scouts at Slieve Donard mountain on Wednesday 22 August.

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