28 Aug 2012

Paralympics: Top tips for London 2012

The Channel 4 News guide to the London 2012 Paralympic Games – how, where and who to watch, ahead of Wednesday’s opening ceremony.

Paralympic Games: the Channel 4 News guide (Getty)

After the amazing highs of the London 2012 Olympic Games – from Team GB’s gold rush to James Bond parachuting into the Olympic stadium accompanied, apparently, by the Queen – now it’s time for the Paralympic Games.

The opening ceremony takes place on Wednesday 29 August and will be followed by the 11-day festival of sport.

Channel 4 News Presenter Jon Snow has been hosting Jon Snow’s Paralympic Show in the run-up to the Games, and will also commentate on the opening and closing ceremonies.

“The Paralympics really will introduce the viewers to superhumans,” he says.

The Paralympics really will introduce the viewers to superhumans. Jon Snow

Channel 4 did not exaggerate, as I have been finding out to my cost. Covering the Paralympics, even thus far, has been one of the greatest adventures of my reporting life. Rare it is to encounter something so remorselessly uplifting, challenging, and good.

Jon Snow is a big fan of the Paralympic sport of boccia - find out more in his blog here

“They are remarkable people playing completely absorbing sports and one thing people will discover is that when play begins, irrespective of the sport, you become absorbed in the play, not in the physical condition of the players.”

Here’s Channel 4 News’s guide on how to get the best out of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Brazilian Paralympic athletes outside the Olympic Stadium (Getty)

Are there any tickets left?

Yes – but you’ll have to be quick. The organisers told Channel 4 News that they have sold 2.3m tickets already, meaning there are only around 200,000 tickets left.

Around half of these tickets will be put on sale before the Games begin, in the next few days. The remaining 100,000 tickets will be made available after the events begin, in the first couple of days of sport. Tickets remain for most events, and at the time of writing, there are closing and opening ceremony tickets available.

All tickets are available via the official website set up for all Olympic and Paralympic tickets.

“The message is, keep going on the website to check, and be patient,” a LOCOG spokesman said. Wheelchair spaces are also still available to book by phone, on 0844 847 2012.

How can you watch the Paralympics live?

Channel 4 is the official broadcaster for the London 2012 Paralympic Games and wants to broadcast the Games like never before.

On television, the day will kick off with a 7am Paralympic Games Breakfast Show, followed by a morning highlights show. Coverage will flip to More4 when not on the main channel, and there will be six more channels of live coverage available across the Sky, Virgin and Freesat platforms – three in high definition, three in standard.

All of the streams will also be available live online here and you can get more information on watching the Games – as well as anything else you need – at Channel 4‘s dedicated Paralympics website.

More tips on watching the Paralympics, kicked off by the torch relay (Getty)

Where can you watch the Paralympics live?

In London, the BT Live big screens were a hit during the Olympics. The screens in Victoria Park and Hyde Park were closed at the end of the Olympics but the place to be for the Paralympics will be Trafalgar Square. As well as all the live action, there will be music every evening and a chance to try out Paralympic sports. Londoners can also watch the marathon competitors along the route, and there are two additional giant screens at Stratford Park and Central Park.

Across the UK, the BBC has set up big screens in 23 different locations, from Belfast to Leeds, Cardiff to Plymouth.

Who are the ones to watch?

Great Britain has a remarkable record at the Paralympics – and with the home advantage, hopefully that isn’t going to change any time soon.

ParalympicsGB are aiming to score the runner-up position in London, for the third successive Games. In fact, UK Sport is aiming for a record 103 medals across 12 different sports.

In such a wide and talented field, it is hard to pick out the particular stars – but the British Paralympic Association has given Channel 4 News some hints on the ones to watch. The schedules can be a bit complicated because there are different categories in different events to allow athletes with varying disabilities to compete, but Channel 4‘s timetable should help – the site also contains an interactive guide on some other medal hopes.

Tom Aggar
If there’s such a thing as a certainty in sport, Tom Aggar might be it – although he’s playing down the hype. He took up rowing to keep fit after a serious spinal injury in 2005 and it’s fair to say he hasn’t really looked back. Since making his international debut in 2007, he has never lost a race, claiming the Paralympic title and four world titles along the way. He can also bench-press more than anyone on either the Olympic or Paralympic rowing teams. On home water, ParalympicsGB will be hoping he is unstoppable.

When to watch: He is in action in the first weekend of the Paralympics, with his heat on the morning of Friday 31 August. The final in the men’s single sculls is in the morning of Sunday 2 September.

Who are the ones to watch at the London 2012 Paralympic Games? (Getty)

Jon-Allan Butterworth
A track cyclist, Jon-Allan Butterworth is worth watching for this cheeky interview alone, in which he jokes that people sometimes stare at him because he’s just so good-looking. He’s also a world-record holder and world champion who had his left arm amputated after an injury while serving in Iraq in 2007.

When to watch: He’s in action first in the men’s kilo at 2pm on Friday 31 August, returning at around 11.40am the following day, Saturday 1 September, for the individual pursuit qualifiers (and hopefully the final in the afternoon). He’s back at 10.30am on Wednesday 5 September in the men’s individual time trial at Brands Hatch, then back again for the men’s individual road race at the same time on Thursday 6 September. He’s also in the team sprint qualifiers in the morning of Sunday 2 September, then – ideally – the final in the afternoon.

Sarah Storey
Swimmer turned cyclist Sarah Storey has already made history. With 18 Paralympic medals already, in 2010 she became the first Paralympic cyclist to compete alongside able-bodied athletes at the Commonwealth Games. Born with a deformed left hand, Storey’s team-mates call her a motorbike because she “leads from the front and rips it up”.

When to watch: First up is the individual pursuit qualifying, on Thursday 30 August, with the final later that day. On Saturday 1 September, in the afternoon, she’s back for a 500m race. At 10.30am on Wednesday 5 September, Storey will line up in the time trial. She’s back the following day, in the afternoon, for the road race.

Jonathan Fox
A swimmer with cerebral palsy, Jonathan Fox will be aiming to improve on his silver from Beijing in the 100m backstroke. He also competes in the 400m freestyle and is definitely a contender in both races. He’s in great form – in 2011, he claimed the world records in both of these events as well as the 50m backstroke.

When to watch: The swimming kicks off straight away, and Fox will be in the heats of the 100m backstroke on the first day of action, Thursday 30 August. The final is in the afternoon. He’s back on 3 September in the 100m freestyle heats. Again, the final is in the afternoon. The 50m freestyle races take place the following day, and the 400m freestyle will be on 6 September.

Danielle Brown
Archer Danielle Brown once shot an apple off the head of a teddy bear in a Channel 4 programme – an achievement which (probably) was eclipsed by her Paralympic gold in Beijing. Her little sister Georgina is a member of the junior Team GB and believes she is Danielle’s nemesis – Danielle is less convinced.

When to watch: The archery begins at 10am on Thursday 30 August, and Danielle is in action immediately. She’s back on Friday in the evening elimination round, hopefully progressing through to the quarter-finals on Sunday 2 September, to the semi-finals and final on Tuesday 4 September.