Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gala Opens Paralympics; Sports Showcase for Athetes with Disabilities Dazzles London

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gala Opens Paralympics; Sports Showcase for Athetes with Disabilities Dazzles London

Article excerpt

LONDON - "Enlightenment" was the theme, physicist Stephen Hawking the guide and Olympic Stadium the venue Wednesday night as London welcomed 4,200 athletes from 165 nations to the 2012 Paralympic Games.

Who better to greet Paralympians than a scientist who has shown the world that physical disabilities do not limit human potential?

"Even if we do find a complete theory of everything, it is just a set of rules and equations," said Hawking, who was given two years to live in 1963 after he contracted motor neurone disease. "What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?"

The extravaganza, directed by Bradley Hemmings and Jenny Sealey, was billed as a voyage across "a sea of ideas" - including Isaac Newton's discovery of gravity, which all Earth-bound athletes strive against. The show included 73 deaf and disabled professional performers and 68 disabled people among its 3,250 volunteers.

The gala opened with a look at the Big Bang - considered the beginning of the universe - as a glowing sphere turned the stadium into a giant nebula.

As the athletes entered, they were welcomed by a global music mash-up by local DJs followed by blind soprano Denise Leigh singing the Paralympic tribute song "Spirit in Motion."

In a nod to the famously erratic British weather, umbrellas were a central theme. Seeing performers with no legs beneath the knee doing aerial flips carrying umbrellas could inspire the most ardent couch potato.

And of course, this being Britain, the words of Shakespeare once again were to make an appearance, with both Miranda of "The Tempest" and British actor Ian McKellen announcing that "the greatest adventure is what lies ahead."

That, over the next 11 days, includes Paralympic athletes competing in 20 sports, including archery, cycling, rowing, equestrian, sailing, sitting volleyball, wheelchair rugby, wheelchair tennis and wheelchair basketball.

In the ceremony, Hawking directed the fictional Miranda to "be curious" - and the stadium was transformed into a giant blinking eye. …

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