30th Aug 2012 9:57am | By Jade Bremner
Stratford hosted a spectacular Paralympics opening ceremony last night, with themes that included 'challenging perceptions of human possibility' and 'empowerment'.
Launched by scientist Stephen Hawking, the show was watched by over a billion viewers who saw various artists with disabilities, plus members of the local community doing circus skills.
“However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at,” narrated Hawking in his distinctive computerised voice. The professor was accompanied by a giant umbrella, which cued Rihanna’s hit ‘Umbrella’ and saw acrobats flying around the stadium holding umbrellas, Mary Poppins-style.
A science theme ran through the event. One part of the show, named Enlightenment, played on Sir Isaac Newton's law of gravity with a record breaking ‘apple crunch’. The entire stadium was invited to simultaneously bite into 62,000 Royal Gala apples as a giant golden apple fell from the sky and helium-filled apples rose from wheelbarrows.
GB’s paralympian star Tanni Grey-Thompson flew across the stadium on a sparkling gold wheelchair with six other athletes in twinkling wheelchairs, then she read the poignant “Brave New World” speech from The Tempest by William Shakespeare. Sir Ian McKellen read Prospero’s character from the same play. “The greatest adventure is what lies ahead,” he said.
The tear-jerking event saw Oscar Pistorius ‘the fastest man with no legs’ carry the South African flag, and team GB come out while over 60,000 attendees stood in ovation and David Bowie’s Heroes resonated through the stadium.
Throughout the show the royal box (and Boris Johnson) we’re beaming. They watched 4,200 paralympians from 166 nations circle the track, a higher turnout than at any other Paralympics ceremony.
In a grand finale filled with colourful fireworks Beverley Knight sang 'I am what I am.'
London Mayor Boris Johnson hopes the London Paralympic Games will “shift perceptions of disability and break down barriers in society."