The London 2012 Paralympics Torch Relay will take place from 24th to 29th August, following the Closing Ceremony of the Olympic Games.
The Torch Relay is seen as a key part of hosting the Games and provides an opportunity to engage with the wider public. The organisers theme will be a celebration of the power of human endeavour and energy in the run up to the Paralympic Games.
The Torch Relay will start in London with the lighting of England’s flame on Friday 24th August. On each of the following days, special Flame Lighting events will be held in the other three capital cities of the United Kingdom. Belfast stage their lighting ceremony on the 25th, Edinburgh on the 26th and Cardiff on the 27th. The idea of lighting four separate flames across Britain and bringing them together is to involve as many parts of the nation as possible and to increase awareness of disability sport. Each city will develop its unique method of lighting to be announced much nearer the event.
Once a flame has been lit, it will be carried to local community groups and key locations in and around each city. There will be a series of public events called Flame Festivals staged by The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in partnership with each Local Authority. Lantern-making workshops will be held on the days of the Flame Festivals where people will have the chance to take part in a lantern procession accompanied by specially selected torchbearers.
Each flame will then be taken to Stoke Mandeville, where the Paralympic Movement began in 1948, and the four flames will be combined on Tuesday 28th August to create the London 2012 Paralympic Flame. 580 torchbearers will carry the flame from Stoke Mandeville to the Olympic Stadium.
Later that evening, there will be a 24-hour Torch Relay from Stoke Mandeville with torchbearers working in teams of five to carry the Paralympic Flame to the Olympic Stadium to light the Cauldron at the Opening Ceremony of the Games. Nominations were invited from across the British Isles, with the public being encouraged to recognise the people who have provided inspiration and support to those with a disability and made a difference in their community. The nominations closed on 22nd November and those fortunate enough to be awarded this once in a lifetime opportunity will be notified in the weeks ahead. The highlight of the Ceremony itself is when the torch enters the stadium. One person is chosen to be the final torchbearer, completing a lap of the Stadium and then using the Flame to light the Cauldron which stays lit until the Closing Ceremony.
The first Paralympics Torch Relay took place at the 1988 Games in Seoul and has quickly became an established part of the event. In Sydney in 2000 the Flame was lit during an indigenous lighting ceremony in the presence of the Australian Prime Minister and then transported by plane to each of Australia’s state capitals with 920 Torchbearers taking part.
In 2004, The Paralympics Flame was lit in the Hephaestus Temple in Athens. Hephaestus was the Greek god of fire and manufacturing and had a disability. In the most recent Games in Beijing in 2008, The Flame was lit in the Temple of Heaven before following two routes intended to capture the characters of ancient and modern China.
The Paralympics torch for London 2012 will be based on the core design for the Olympic torch but with some subtle differences. The design will be unveiled in the new year.