Amidst the hectic and excitement surrounding the London 2012 Paralympic Games, it can be easy to forget that it was only 50 miles away in Stoke Mandeville that the paralympic movement began in 1948. With the Games 'coming home' for the first time, a torch relay took place from Stoke Mandeville to London on the day of the Opening Ceremony to recognise Stoke Mandeville as the birthplace of the modern Paralympic Games.
To create the flame, four national flames were first formed at the highest summits of the four British host nations. Groups of disabled and non-disabled scouts climbed Scafell Pike (England), Mount Snowdon (Wales), Ben Nevis (Scotland) and Slieve Donard (Northern Ireland) and carried it to the capital cities: London, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast where cauldrons were lit to begin a day of paralympic celebrations at flame festivals.
From the capitals, the flames were then carried to Stoke Mandeville where the paralympic flame was created at the ’Paralympic Flame Lighting Ceremony’ on August 28th to begin the relay to the Opening Ceremony.
Sebastian Coe, Chair of the London 2012 Organising Committee, said: "The creation of the paralympic flame marks the start of a 24-hour unique relay which will see teams of torchbearers work through the night to light the way to fantastic Paralympic Games. Each and every one of them has achieved something remarkable."
The 580 torchbearers carried the flame in 116 groups of five. Each were selected for their stories of how they demonstrate the paralympic values of courage, determination, inspiration and equality. One torchbearer, Michael Watson, had to apply each of these traits after a boxing match in 1991 left him paralysed, ending his career.
Despite being told he would never walk again, Michael took his first steps in 1997 and in 2003 completed the London Marathon over six days. A year later he was awarded an MBE for his work in inspiring people. He said: "I am over the moon and very, very proud to have been selected to carry the flame. It is a great honour and I would like to wish Paralympics GB lots of success and medals."
KERI TRIGG, 17 years
Last week saw the official last day of Paralympics GB’s pre-Games training camp as the last squad left their Bath University base and headed into the athletes village. "The aim of the camp was to prepare the athletes as best as possible for the London Games," said one deputy camp director. "And by running these camps we are not dropping the athletes in at the deep end." It is in the training areas where perhaps the most important lessons are worked. The sitting volleyball team's session, for example, could be heard all over the sports training village. Not due to coach Ian Legrand's loud voice but because while the volleyball squad was training, speakers were blasting out pre-recorded crowd sounds to try and replicate the distractions of the home Games.
One thing which became obvious is how important the volunteers were. They restocked fridges providing drinks to the athletes and staff and they helped in the camp headquarters printing off instructions, programming the mobile telephones and running errands. Despite not being paid the volunteers received several 'perks' from the job. Free drinks are provided by the corporate sponsors as are meals during the shifts; however the main perk gained from volunteering does not involve material possessions. "For me the best part of the camp is the chance to meet and interact with the athletes," said Alex. "There is a blind footballer from the five-a-side team called Darren Harris and he challenged me to a game of connect four. And he beat me three times. But the thing was he had to point out where he beat me. And he has not let me forget it since on twitter!"GEORGE SIMONDS, 17 years