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Scouts spark Paralympics' flame
Four groups of Scouts have successfully climbed to the top of the UK's highest peaks to create the flame that will light the Paralympic Torch.
On the day that the first athletes began arriving in London for the opening of the Paralympic Games in a week's time, the Scouts set off at dawn to try to reach the summits in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Four separate teams set off up Scafell Pike, England's highest peak, Slieve Donard in Northern Ireland, Snowdon in Wales and Ben Nevis in Scotland - the UK's highest point.
The Scouts on the English leg lived up to their motto to "Be Prepared" as they lit the spark using a ferrocerium rod against a rough steel surface after scaling 978-metre summit of Scafell Pike in Cumbria. Their mission took six hours in all - setting off at dawn in relatively good weather. But at the summit in the midst of clouds the conditions were very different.
Scout leaders Tom Lawson, from Carlisle, said: "It went really well. It took a while to light the thing at the top - it was freezing cold and hail-stoning and raining because we were so high up."
The Scouts who climbed Mt Snowdon were joined by Lord Coe, the Chairman of the London 2012 organising committee. One of the climbers, Ellie Hamilton-Hunter, 16, from Old Colwyn, said "I hardly slept last night because I was so excited - and then I had to get up at 4am so we could set off at dawn. It was amazing to be part of the group which lit the flame, it's part of history now and I'm very proud."
On Ben Nevis, the group of four Scouts walked through thick fog and rain to reach the 4,409ft summit. Scottish sports minister Shona Robison said: "I am very proud of the group of individuals that will help fire up the nation behind this special moment and stir our athletes to go for gold at the Paralympic Games."
Blind outdoor pursuits enthusiast Bernadette Sloan was chosen to light the flame on top of Slieve Donard in the Mourne Mountains where she was accompanied by several Scouts in the blustery conditions. She described it as "one of the best moments of my life", adding: "It was an absolute privilege to have been given the honour of lighting the flame."
The four individual flames will now be transferred to their respective capitals for a day of Paralympic celebrations. From the Paralympic celebrations in the capitals, the national flames will be taken to Stoke Mandeville, the spiritual home of the Paralympic movement, where they will be united during a special ceremony on Tuesday to create the London 2012 Paralympic Flame.
Wednesday was expected to be the busiest day for the arrival of Paralympic athletes into Heathrow. Athletes from New Zealand and Australia were some of the first through the arrival doors at Terminal 3 and said they had been given a warm welcome. British Airways is flying in Paralympic teams from 25 countries including ParalympicsGB who are thought to be arriving at the airport next week from their training camps abroad.