2 May 2012

Enlightenment theme for London Paralympics

As details of the London Paralympics opening ceremony are announced, Channel 4 News looks at why London 2012 could be the best games to date but it won’t be the biggest.

The opening ceremony for the London 2012 Paralympics is called Enlightenment and will feature a host of deaf and disabled artists, local children and performers newly trained in circus skills.

Injured soldiers and past Paralympic athletes are among the cast who are starting an eight-week circus school course.

A flypast by Aerobility, a charity that trains disabled people to become pilots, will open the 29 August event at the Olympic Stadium.

It also sets out to be a celebration of the Paralympics coming home as the event originated in the UK as the Stoke Mandeville Games in 1948.

Organisers say another batch of tickets will go on sale later this month, including some for the opening ceremony.

London 2012 claims the number of tickets already sold is “unprecedented” this far ahead of the Paralympics. That may be true but in Beijing tickets were not being sold at this stage.

More than a million tickets have already been sold for London. The total number sold in Beijing was 3.44 million although almost half of those were bought by the government and given to school children.

A spokesman for the International Paralympic Committee told Channel 4 News that because of the size of the venues in Beijing the audience numbers were unlikely to ever be beaten but he was hopeful that the London 2012 Paralympics would be a sell out at around 2.4 million.

It is also hoped the London Paralympic games will reach the largest television audience of around 4 billion people compared to Beijing which reached around 3.8 billion.

Read more: London Paralympics - where is Cambodia?

‘Relishing the challenge’

The Paralympics opening ceremony should be “both spectacular and deeply human”, according to Bradley Hemmings, who has masterminded the show with fellow artistic director Jenny Sealey.

The artistic directors share a long history of staging vibrant live shows, including work with deaf and disabled artists.

Nottingham-born Ms Sealey lost her hearing aged seven and uses sign language to create her shows. She gets a small amount of distorted sound through a hearing aid.

West Londoner Mr Hemmings comes from the world of outdoor theatre, where he is considered a pioneer, and is the artistic director of the Greenwich+Docklands International Festival.

Ms Sealey, who said they are “relishing” the chance to create the show, said: “We are on a rollercoaster of a journey and with us we have an awesome creative team, a wonderful professional cast and an extraordinary team of volunteers.

“It is immensely exciting and always terrifying, especially as the days are passing at the rate of knots. But we will be ready to show the world the story we have so carefully developed and nurtured.”

London 2012 chairman Lord Coe predicted the opening ceremony would be “a great showcase of the skills and excellence of disabled artists”.

He said: “The London 2012 ceremonies are truly global events, with billions of people across the world watching the four shows.”