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London 2012
Olympics was 'just the antipasto'
The London Paralympics are set to be one of the most popular of all time with sell-out crowds and plenty of publicity.
Last Modified: 24 Aug 2012 16:06
London Marathon runner Claire Lomas lights the Paralympic flame cauldron in Trafalgar Square [AP]

It was an early start for those waiting to see the ceremonial cauldron lit in London’s Trafalgar Square on Friday.

Only a few hundred people were there to witness the cauldron burst to life but that was more to do with the 8.00am kick-off than the popularity of the event.

With only five days until London’s second summer sports party, there seems to be a bigger buzz around the Paralympics than ever before.

London's boisterous Mayor Boris Johnson describing the Summer Olympics as the 'antipasto' before the main 'Paralympics' course.

If you need proof of the Paralympics popularity just try to buy a ticket!

The Paralympics have already sold out with only a few thousand tickets to drip out on sale over the next couple of weeks.

A full house is not the only factor suggesting these will be one of the greatest Paralympic Games in history. There are also 19 more nations taking part than in Beijing and 249 more athletes, taking the total of participants to 4,200.

A massive step forward considering the Paralympics have struggled in the past to garner both political and public support. At the 1996 Atlanta Games athletes had to participate in virtually empty stadiums and complained about the facilities and transport system.

But the Paralympics are enjoying much better times now. And so they should be. 

Against the odds

And although the woman who lit the cauldron will not be competing at the Games she signified everything that is special  about the Paralympics.  

Claire Lomas’ tentative steps towards the cauldron emphasised what she had achieved and what others can achieve against the odds.

In May 2012, Claire toiled for 16 days on the streets of the capital to complete the London Marathon. A remarkable feat by a woman paralysed from the chest down after falling from a horse in May 2007.

The British public were humbled by Claire's journey. With the help of a bionic suit, she spent over two weeks walking two miles a day towards the finishing line. Through her endeavor she raised over $250,000 for Spinal Research and after being denied a medal by organisers received 16 from other marathon runners as a symbol of their respect and admiration.

"It will be the biggest, best and most incredible Paralympic Games ever"

British PM David Cameron

Respect and admiration will be in no short supply over the next few weeks. It is not patronising to marvel at how people who have suffered diseases, amputations and horrific incidents have picked themselves up to become Olympic competitors. In the UK, British competitors are being branded ‘the superhumans’ - a tag they deserve, despite the fact they have yet to compete.

“It will be the biggest, best and most incredible Paralympic Games ever,” David Cameron said to the crowd and media gathered. 100W smiles were being beamed from the stage but for once they felt real. 

“I am not going to start a jingoistic rant about how many medals Britain are going to win,” said Boris Johnson before launching into a jingoistic rant about how many medals Britain are going to win.

Yes - it is fair to say the feel good factor is back in London. The stories behind the Paralympic athletes are serious but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy the event. 

Unless you are stuck on the London 2012 website trying to get tickets that is…

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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