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Olympics
Oscar Pistorius indulges in Olympic seconds
As Paralympics return to their UK home, many eyes will return to one special man from South Africa.
Last Modified: 26 Aug 2012 20:47
After his Olympic adventure Pistorius will take part in 100, 200 and 400m events at Paralympics [GETTY]

The Olympic rings have disappeared across London, and the Paralympic symbols hoisted in their place. Let the games begin - again.

Thousands of athletes have already arrived for Wednesday's opening ceremony as the Paralympics return to their roots.

The familiar face of Oscar Pistorius and his even more recognisable blades have helped to take the Paralympic movement to the masses - with 2.3 million tickets already sold.

August has been a groundbreaking month for Pistorius.

"It was an incredible experience to compete at the Olympic Games and the reception from the crowd I will remember for the rest of my life"

Oscar Pistorius

The South African will be defending the three titles won four years ago at the Beijing Paralympics, just weeks after becoming the first amputee sprinter to compete at the Olympics.

"I am incredibly excited to be back in London,'' said Pistorius, who raced in the 400 meters and 4x400 relay earlier this month in the 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium.

"It was an incredible experience to compete at the Olympic Games and the reception from the crowd I will remember for the rest of my life.''

The 25-year-old Pistorius had to contend with battles on and off the track to become the poster boy of the Paralympics, where he will be competing over 100, 200 and 400.

"He is massive,'' London organising committee chairman Sebastian Coe said.

"In Trafalgar Square this time last year for International Paralympic Day, (there was) a queue of kids who were screaming his name out and wanting autographs.''

But Coe stressed that the medals "are not nailed on for him'' at the Paralympics.

"Sport is at its best when you have head to heads,'' he said.

Coming home

Pistorius has helped shine the spotlight on the Paralympics more than ever before.

"The Paralympic movement has come of age,'' International Paralympic Committee President Philip Craven said.

"Having a sellout is amazing. A sellout prior to the games starting is unheard of... it makes you feel good as an athlete.''

Many of the 4,200 athletes from 165 countries will parade in the opening ceremony that will celebrate the visionary doctor who conceived the Paralympics.

"This really is an opportunity to change attitudes and confront some of the misconceptions that are still out there about disability"

LOCOG Chairman Seb Coe

Ludwig Guttmann used sport in the rehabilitation of servicemen injured in World War II, and organised a hospital games at the time of the 1948 London Olympics that evolved from 1960 into the Paralympics.

"Without sounding too nationalistic or even jingoistic about it, it was created here in `48, we drove all the early stages of the movement,'' Coe said.

"A lot of us do feel they are coming home.''

And it's a chance to raise the profile further.

"This really is an opportunity to change attitudes and confront some of the misconceptions that are still out there about disability,'' Coe said.

That's achieved by creating one festival of sport in the summer in London, with the Paralympics the second element, sharing the same "London 2012'' logo.

"We have never treated it as an after show and I think Beijing was a great example of it never being an after show,'' Craven said.

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AP
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