The opening ceremony of the 2012 London Paralympic Games was deemed a huge success and is expected to radically change people’s perception of disability and the disabled.
Professor Stephen Hawking - described by organisers as the most famous disabled person on the planet - narrated the extravaganza, which attracted a UK television audience of more than 11 million – compared with the approximately two million in 2008 for the Beijing Paralympics – and an Olympic Park stadium audience of more than 80,000.
Christopher Bray, head of conferences at the Multiple Sclerosis Society, commented: “It was great, engaging and positive. I am proud the Paralympics are in this country. It was powerful, and the imagery was strong, the messaging good, and it was lively. I was very impressed in the way it was handled and produced and the fact that the show featured disabled people being the performers, not able-bodied stand-ins. The Games feature athletes with MS such as swimmer Stephanie Millwood, and we hope to work with her after the Games. She definitely is a role model.”
Martyn Sibley, a journalist with spinal muscular atrophy and co-founder of Disability Horizons: A 21st Century View of Disability, an online magazine, wrote on his site: “A massive round of applause must to go to all the volunteers and performers who made last night so special and also to artistic directors, Bradley Hemmings and Jenny Sealey who continued the now established British tradition of holding fantastic opening ceremonies.”
The only criticism came the way of Channel 4, the event’s TV broadcaster, which did not show the event in its entirety but attracted its best TV audience in more than 10 years. Brian Seaman, head of consultancy at Tourism for All, added: “I can tell you that C4 drew a lot of criticism on Twitter for breaking up the transmission of the opening ceremony with ads.”
Stuart Cosgrove, C4’s director of creative diversity, defended the action by saying that “Channel 4 is not in receipt of a licence fee, not are we a subscription channel. We have to generate revenue.” One disgruntled tweeter, two-time Team GB Olympian decathlete Daniel Awde, tweeted: “If we’re lucky, might be able to see some of these Paralympics in between these adverts.”
The 11-day sporting contest will involve 164 countries and 4,200 athletes, more than 300 of them hailing from the United Kingdom. Her Majesty The Queen officially opened the event.
Pictured: 2012 Paralympians Annick Sevenans of Belgium and Moez el Assine of France