29 Aug 2012

Will the relay make it to the Olympic stadium on time?

A delay in the torch relay means it could fail to reach the Olympic stadium in time for the Paralympic opening ceremony. But the ceremony will begin as scheduled.

The relay was running around two hours late through London today after making slow progress on Tuesday night, but organisers said tonight that time had been made up and it was just over an hour late.

To ensure the ceremony is not disrupted, a break-away flame was created at City Hall as a “contingency”. A spokesman from the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Locog) said: “Part of the flame has gone ahead to the stadium as a back-up contingency plan. The relay is going to continue.”

He said he was hopeful the relay would still reach the Stratford stadium on time.

This evening, Malawi withdrew from the Games due to a lack of funding.

Earlier, five Paralympic torchbearers recreated the pose made famous by the Beatles for their 1969 Abbey Road album.

With Fab Four hits including From Me To You and Day Tripper, it was an appropriate calling point for the relay on the day the London 2012 Paralympics will officially start.

Crowds lined the street, cheered and waved Union Jacks as the proud torchbearers lined up at the crossing in St John’s Wood, north west London.

Last night four individual flames representing the four home nations were carried into the stadium at Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire – the spiritual home of the Paralympic Games – and one combined torch was carried out, a beacon of the Paralympic spirit.

Despite much of the relay taking place under cover of darkness, thousands of people turned out on a clear and chilly night to watch its journey and cheer on the proud torchbearers.

Opening ceremony

Working in teams of five, the torchbearers, both disabled and non-disabled, carried the flame from the stadium to the National Spinal Injuries Centre in the village, before bearing it through Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire to Watford and then on to London.

It reached the Shree Swaminarayan Hindu temple in Willesden, Brent, amid cheers and traditional prayers at around 8.30am.

Hundreds of people waved flags and drums played uplifting rhythms in the morning sunshine as Antony Eames, 32, from Wokingham, held out a torch on a red carpet at the top of the temple’s staircase.

The flame then made its way towards the centre of the capital, stopping off at the Abbey Road landmark.

As Graham Helm, 38, from Lancashire, paraded the flame across the iconic crossing, the crowds cheered.

Mr Helm, registered blind four years ago, was nominated as a torchbearer for his work with young people.

Ria Amiraly, a special needs teacher from St John’s Wood, said the atmosphere at the relay had been “buzzing”.

The 28-year-old said: “You don’t get to see people talking every day to each other like they did today, it was fascinating to be part of it.

“The Paralympics are more important to me because I work with special needs children, I think it’s great that people with disabilities are going out there and taking part in sport, it’s really important,” she added.

‘Atmosphere and camaraderie’

Arvind Devalia, a 41-year-old writer and life coach, said: “I had to be here, I live just round the corner.

“I have been waiting since 7.30 this morning and the torch went by fast, but it was well worth waiting for three hours.

“For me it was about the atmosphere and the camaraderie, people were so friendly and chatty and it was such a great vibe.”

After Abbey Road, the torch started on its way towards London Zoo, Regent Street, Trafalgar Square and Whitehall.

The torch relay, which can be followed online, will go past Fleet Street, Greenwich and Hackney before arriving at the Stratford Olympics site on Wednesday night.