Get involved! Send your photos, video, news & views by texting COUNTY GAZETTE to 80360 or email us
Paralympic torch blazes a trail towards London
9:21am Wednesday 29th August 2012 in London Olympics 2012 - Latest News
As dawn was breaking across London, the Paralympic torch was being carried through the capital towards the Olympic Park, where tonight it will ignite the start of the Games.
This morning the torch will grace the six host boroughs, visiting landmarks including the Abbey Road crossing made famous by the Beatles, Lord's Cricket Ground and London Zoo.
It is due at the Shree Swaminarayan Hindu temple in Willesden, Brent, at about 8am, as the relay is running about an hour and a half behind schedule.
Four individual flames representing the four home nations were carried into the stadium at Stoke Mandeville last night, and one combined torch was carried out, a beacon of the Paralympic spirit.
Despite much of the relay taking place taking place under cover of darkness, thousands of people turned out on a clear and chill night to watch it on its journey and cheer on the proud torchbearers.
Working in teams of five, the torchbearers, both disabled and non-disabled, carried the flame from the stadium at Stoke Mandeville - the spiritual home of the Paralympic Games - to the National Spinal Injuries Centre in the village, before bearing it through Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire, to Watford and then on to Harrow in London.
At the start of the relay last night thousands of people gathered in the market square in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, to watch the event, catch a glimpse of the torch on big screens and enjoy a fireworks display.
Shortly before midnight the torch was carried through the village of Weston Turville, in Buckinghamshire, where residents lit candles to line the route.
A London 2012 spokeswoman accompanying the relay said: "The kids were out in their dressing gowns and people had laid candles every step of the way.
"The candles were in jam jars and paper bags and people had lined them up on both sides of the street. It was magical."
Four specially-chosen torchbearers were given the honour of carrying the four flames into the stadium at Stoke Mandeville, before coming together to light the cauldron to loud cheers from the assembled crowd.
Paralympic gold medallist Tony Griffin carried the English flame while Paralympian Christopher Channon took the Scottish flame on to the stage.
Special constable Darren Ferguson carried the flame for Northern Ireland after being recognised for going to the aid of a man who wanted to take his own life, while Marsha Wiseman bore the Welsh flame after being nominated for the work she has done to promote the Paralympic Games.
The four flames were struck last week by young disabled and non-disabled Scouts on the four highest mountain peaks in each of the four host nations - Scafell Pike in England, Snowdon in Wales, Ben Nevis in Scotland and Northern Ireland's Slieve Donard.
They then rested at Paralympic celebrations in London, Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff before being taken to Stoke Mandeville, where the Paralympic movement began in 1948 after neurologist Ludwig Guttman came up with the idea of rehabilitating injured servicemen with sport.
Earlier, London 2012 chairman Lord Coe addressed the crowd, saying he was "so excited" to be at the home of the Games on the eve of their opening.
He said: "It's been a long time coming - seven years for our teams at Locog but 64 years since the passion and drive of Ludwig Guttmann signposted this extraordinary journey we have all been on.
"It is simply not possible to stand here without feeling a mountainous debt of gratitude for one of the world's great visionaries.
"I would like to think that if Ludwig Guttmann were here today, he would be proud of the way we have united the four nations of the UK with these flames in the same way we aim to unite the world through the London 2012 Paralympic Games."
The first Paralympic Games were held in Rome in 1960.
Stoke Mandeville co-hosted the Games with New York in 1984, when they took over the running of the wheelchair events when Illinois pulled out at the last minute, but 2012 marks the first time the whole Paralympics has been staged in the UK.