London 2012: Paralympic torch relay visits UK capitals

The launch of the Paralympic torch relay
Image caption Swimmer David Roberts (left), Locog chair Lord Coe (centre, left), athlete Danny Crates (centre, right) and cyclist Aileen McGlynn (right) at the relay launch

London, Belfast, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Stoke Mandeville have been revealed as the five venues for London 2012's Paralympic torch relay.

Paralympic flame lighting events are to be held on consecutive days in each of the UK's capital cities, starting with London on 24 August next year.

The four flames will unite at a special ceremony in Stoke Mandeville, home of the Paralympic movement, on 28 August.

The relay will then begin its 24-hour journey to London's opening ceremony.

The Paralympic Flame will be carried from the Stoke Mandeville Stadium by 580 torchbearers, working in teams of five, to the Olympic Stadium where the cauldron will be lit to herald the start of the Paralympic Games on the evening of 29 August.

A flame lighting event in London will kick off the relay before Belfast stages the second lighting event and the first of the four evening Flame Festivals on 25 August.

Edinburgh on 26 August and Cardiff on 27 August will be the next two host cities before the four flames come together in Stoke Mandeville the following day, where they will be combined to create the London 2012 Paralympic Flame.

The Paralympic torch will be based on the core design for the London 2012 Olympic torch , with some differences, say the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Locog. The Paralympic version will be unveiled next year.

Locog said it was a "new concept" to have the four separate flames, which will be lit "using the power of human endeavour".

Each nation will create its own "unique method of lighting", which will be announced closer to the time of the relay next year. When the flame is lit, it will travel to local community groups and key locations in and around each city.

Lantern-making workships will also be held on the days of the Flame Festivals, as well as earlier in the summer. People from all communities can participate in a lantern procession accompanied by specially selected torchbearers.

The festivals will be staged by Locog and the host local authority, and will include themed entertainment programmes.

Speaking at the launch, Sebastian Coe, chair of Locog, said: "There is a distinct feeling about the Paralympics and this relay will be about human endeavour, and a celebration of Paralympic sport with the Flame Festivals."

Lord Coe added that the details of how the flames would be lit through human endeavour was "still being worked on but there will be a team ethic and there will be the human endeavour angle".

He added that ticket sales for the Paralympics were going well, with the window for applications closing on Monday 26 September.

"There's a good healthy response out there," he told the BBC. "Half the people who signed up said they wanted Paralympic tickets and the response has been good."

Asked about fears of low sales, he added: "We are monitoring the ticket sales. We won't maintain a running commentary. We know from early sales that they were going well.

"We have decided to limit what we know will be the big ticket events. But I am pretty relaxed because we have a head start with the Paralympic Games in this country. People really get the Games. A lot of the athletes are household names."

Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport said: "The torch relay will take the Paralympics to each home nation helping to build excitement for the Games and awareness of disability sport. This is our chance to welcome home the Paralympic movement."

Image caption Children from Hackney Schools and Paralympic gold medal swimmer David Roberts make lanterns

Eleven-time Paralympic gold medal-winning swimmer David Roberts said he was overwhelmed to be at the aquatics centre, where he hopes to compete in the 50, 100 and 400m freestyle.

On the torch relay, he said: "I think it's a fantastic idea, the Olympic flame and torch are something everyone knows and everybody wants to take part in. To have the Paralympic version is fantastic.

"To go to the four corners of the UK and to have four flames coming together in the birthplace of the Paralympics is so special.

"My first Paralympic Games in Sydney were incredible. Now some Paralympic athletes are household names. It makes me so proud to be an athlete. The Paralympics are coming home."

Information on how torchbearers will be chosen will be announced at a later date.

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