Monday, 10 September 2012

Paralympics: The last hurrah

Last night the London 2012 Paralympics came to a close with a spectacular bang. And it was amazing to actually be in the stadium to see it firsthand - a closing ceremony that actually outdid the Olympics finale. But then it was also the final shout for a summer of extraordinary achievement over about six weeks in London.

Designed as a "festival of flame", the closing ceremony featured rather a lot of fire! It was astonishing to see in the stadium, as thousands of performers worked the stadium floor in gigantic motorised contraptions that took specific roles in the various seasons of the ceremony, while others flew above us in aerial stunts. In the centre of it all, Coldplay did an entire concert, performing 15 of their hits with a bit of help from Rihanna and Jay Z, all while keeping the focus on the athletes who were gathered around them singing along. It was easily one of the most colourful spectacles I've ever witnessed, and also one of the most moving, as it recognised the remarkable achievements of the competitors.

Over the last three days of competition, I managed to achieve my own goal to see something at the Paralympics every day of the competition. On the final morning in the Olympic Stadium, I got up close with the cauldron (via Instagram right) - close enough to feel the heat. On Sunday I watched the final two gold medal matches, in which Australia won the wheelchair rugby and Russia won the 7-a-side football (the players all have cerebral palsy).

Indeed, the past 12 days have been a life-changing experience for me. I will never look at anyone with a disability in quite the same way again, and I can only hope that these talented, skilled athletes continue to get the media coverage they deserve as they continue to compete in their sport. The massive ratings in Britain prove that there's an audience for it.

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