With London and the UK still on a high after a fantastic summer of celebrations and partying, the 2012 Summer Paralympic Games are about to get under way. The fourteenth Paralympics will run from 29 August to 9 September 2012. After the recent Olympics this will be the second biggest sporting event in the UK.
In preparation for the start of the Paralympics four special flames have been lit at the 4 highest peaks in the UK. Flaming lanterns are then being carried down from Scafell Pike in England, Snowdon in Wales, Ben Nevis in Scotland and Slieve Donard (Northern Ireland by groups of scouts, mountain guides and disabled participants. Volunteers will then convene at Stoke Mandeville the day before the start of the Paralympics where a relay team will set out with the flame and carry it from Stoke Mandeville to Stratford in London for the opening ceremony. The 24 hour relay will have some 580 torchbearers in teams of 5 as they carry the torch around 90 miles to Stratford, East London.
Stoke Mandeville is the spiritual home of the Paralympic Games; in 1948 a German doctor, Dr Ludwig Guttmann was stationed at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital and pioneered a ground-breaking convalescence programme which would eventually see the British World War II veterans at the hospital compete in the very first such Paralympic Games. The story was told in a fantastic TV Movie, Best of Men, shown on the BBC this week starring the brilliant Eddie Marsan as Dr. Ludwig Guttmann (watch it if you can). The story is all the more remarkable as the veterans convalescing at the hospital were all recovering from spinal injuries sustained during the war. The doctor really motivated the patients in a pioneering scheme that saw the birth of the very first Paralympic Games in 1948 to coincide with the Summer Olympics 1948.
Stoke Mandeville is a suburb to the south of Aylesbury (near Oxford) in Buckinghamshire. And yes the mascot Mandeville is names directly after the famous location!
This weekend is a bank holiday in the UK and major cities such as London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast will all come alive with special flame festivals and celebrations.
The 2012 Paralympic Games will be the biggest yet with around 4,200 participants competing in 503 separate events across 21 sporting disciplines. The opening ceremony will once again be televised across the world on Wednesday 29 August.
As part of our focus on the London and the Olympics we have also blogged about the 10 must-see London attractions, 10 best shopping locations in London, 10 Cultural things to do in London and 10 Totally free things to do in London.
Prepare to get excited all over again! Whether you’re attending the Paralympics (although I believe it has now completely sold out) or watching on TV, one thing is for certain; you’ll be cheering the athletes on and you won’t fail to feel inspired and moved by the bravery and sporting prowess.
By Julie Bowman