The Opening Ceremony for the London 2012 Paralympic Games was held on August 29, 2012 at 20:30 local time in the Olympic Stadium. It featured a cast of more than 3,000 adult volunteers, along with more than 100 professional performers. Of these professional performers, 73 were hearing or otherwise impaired, as were 68 of the volunteers. Before the official opening, at 20:12 local time, a flyover was executed by members of Aerobility, a British charity training people with impairments to become pilots.
The Opening Ceremony itself started with a countdown and an allegorical description of the creation of the universe, with Stephen Hawking giving a speech on science and reason. This was followed by a dance performance set to “Umbrella” by Rihanna.
The ceremony, in addition to the Parade of Athletes, a common feature in all Opening Ceremonies, featured various ideas and symbols, borrowed and adapted from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the industrial history of Great Britain as well as the history of the Paralympic Movement and its connection to Great Britain. The ideals of enlightenment, progress and science were exemplified by, for example, Miranda and Prospero standing on The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the discovery of gravity by Sir Isaac Newton as exemplified through a maze of apples and a golden apple floating through the stadium.
The idea, borrowed from William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest is that Prospero, portrayed in the play as a wise old man and the rightful Duke of Milan, teaches his daughter, Miranda, about the Brave New World, detailing to her the advances humans have made technologically, but also socially, transporting her into the “present” where she herself should act as an agent of progress.
This progress was exemplified by the stage within the stadium transforming into a Large Hadron Collider, with Stephen Hawking explaining how it might change our perception of the world, just as the Games can do. This is followed by protesters calling for equal rights entering the stage, with performances of “Where is it going” by Orbital and “Spasticus Autisticus” by Ian Dury, focussing on inclusiveness and changes in society.
After the tale of change and progress has been told, the ceremony showed the journey of the Paralympic torch to the stadium, and ended with the lighting of the petals constituting the Cauldron. A final performance of “I am what I am” by Beverley Knight, Lizzie Emeh and Caroline Parker was accompanied by fireworks, actors forming the Agitos logo and the cast of the ceremony joining the artists in singing and signing the song.
The London Paralympics Opening Ceremony was watched by 80,000 people live in the stadium and an estimated 7.6 million TV viewers in the United Kingdom.