History to be made today with Paralympic flame ceremony

Paralympic flame festival at Stoke Mandeville Stadium in 2012
Paralympic flame festival at Stoke Mandeville Stadium in 2012

The first ever Paralympic Heritage Flame will be lit at Stoke Mandeville Stadium today as part of a spectacular ceremony.

Paralympic gold medallist Hannah Cockroft will light the flame to celebrate the Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi, which start on March 7.

More than 600 guests, including many Paralympians, will watch on as Stoke Mandeville becomes the first place to be involved in a Paralympic torch relay outside of the Games’ hosting country.

The Heritage Flame project has been supported by £155,000 from the National Lottery through Arts Council England’s grants for the arts programme.

Artistic director Bradley Hemmings, who was behind the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, has choreographed tonight’s ceremony.

He has teamed up with designer Jon Bausor to create an armillary sphere, from which Cockroft will light the flame.

The sphere will then be used at future flame lighting ceremonies.

Short films narrated by Sir Ian McKellen will also be shown as part of the ceremony, which will be broadcast live on Channel 4 News from 6.30pm.

Aylesbury Vale District Council cabinet member for leisure Howard Mordue, said: “We are thrilled and honoured that Stoke Mandeville Stadium will be hosting this historic flame lighting ceremony.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Stoke Mandeville’s proud heritage as the birthplace of Paralympic sport.”

Chief of the British Paralympic Association Tim Hollingsworth said: “The inaugural Heritage Flame Lighting Festival will be a great event and Bradley’s fantastic team have created something that will truly inspire and excite the audience and the British public.”

There is also be a celebratory event at the Waterside Theatre tomorrow at 7.30pm.

Follow reporter Tom Burton’s live updates from the event here.