“It was one of those breath taking moments where everyone was amazed at what was happening and I thought it was incredible to be involved in the middle of it.”
A freezing cold evening on 1 March 2014 saw history made at Stoke Mandeville Stadium in Great Britain; it marked the very first time there has been an international leg of the Paralympic Torch Relay. The spectacular moment has made it to the IPC’s Top 50 Moments of 2014.
Taking place seven days prior to the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games Opening Ceremony, the inaugural Heritage Flame lighting event at the Paralympic Movement’s birthplace saw a spectacular ceremony featuring fireworks and the first public appearance of the Armillary Sphere. It was directed by Bradley Hemmings, the Co-Artistic Director of the London 2012 Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony.
Designed by internationally acclaimed theatre designer Jon Bausor, the magnificent and iconic Armillary Sphere – a model of stars and planets in the sky which is over six metres tall and six metres in diameter – saw British Paralympian and London 2012 gold medallist Hannah Cockroft MBE create the spark of the Paralympic Heritage flame through human endeavour.
“It was a really good event and a lot of people turned out to watch,” said Cockroft who had to endure freezing temperatures located in the middle of the sphere, which is imagined as a constellation in the night sky celebrating the Paralympic Games.
“It was great to see it all come together and see the whole show. It was a very cold night and I was thankful when the rings around me lit up with the flames as it warmed me up just a little bit.
“I was excited when I was asked to be involved in the project and be involved in Sochi. I’d had so much off the back of London 2012, so to be asked to be involved in the next Paralympics was brilliant.
“There were so many other athletes they could have asked, so many other golden girls, so it was amazing they chose me. I was truly honoured and had loads of fun doing it. It might have been cold, but I had fun.
“It was one of those breath taking moments where everyone was amazed at what was happening and I thought it was incredible to be involved in the middle of it,” added the Yorkshire born athlete who won 100m and 800m T34 European titles in 2014.
For all future summer and winter Paralympic Games, Stoke Mandeville and the Armillary Sphere will host an international leg of the Paralympic Torch Relay, celebrating the history of the Paralympic Games and Buckinghamshire’s position as the birthplace of the Paralympic Movement.
Setting a precedent
“I think it’s really important that Stoke Mandeville is recognised in this way,” said Cockroft.
“It’s kind of been overlooked for a lot of Paralympic Games, it’s never been the true focus of where it all began and what all the Paralympic Movement is about.
“Because it’s from Britain, we have to make the most of it and use it to keep the legacy of the Paralympics going.”
At March’s ceremony, once Cockroft had lit the Armillary Sphere, Caz Walton, representing the heritage of Stoke Mandeville, lit the Paralympic Torch and Cauldron. Walton competed in her first Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 1964 and went on to compete in eight Paralympic Games.
The Heritage Flame visited several landmarks in Buckinghamshire and London before it headed to Sochi to merge with all other flames in a special unification ceremony on 5 March to create the Paralympic Flame.
Attending March’s event was IPC President Sir Philip Craven, Sochi 2014 President and CEO Dimitry Chernyshenko, Tim Reddish, Chairman of the British Paralympic Association, Carl Etholen, Chair of Buckinghamshire County Council and the Buckinghamshire Legacy Board and supermodel and Sochi 2014 ambassador Natalia Vodianova.
Visit the IPC’s Top 50 Moments of 2014 campaign page for more information