The flame still burns

Stoke Mandeville Stadium hosted the fourth Paralympic Heritage Flame Lighting Ceremony, marking the beginning of the official five-day-long torch relay.

On Thursday 19 August, an international spotlight was shone on the stadium as it hosted the fourth ceremony heralding the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games (see picture above).

The flame was ignited by paralympians and official torch bearers, Susie Rodgers MBE and Jane Blackburn.

Councillor Clive Harriss, Buckinghamshire Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure, said: ‘It’s incredible to see how far the Paralympic Movement has grown over the last 70 years from its inception here in Stoke Mandeville.’

Lighting of the official Paralympic Heritage Cauldron, designed by local students and specially commissioned by local outdoors arts company Festive Road for future Paralympic Heritage Flame events, took centre stage at the event.

Local families and sportsmen and women from local disability sports groups joined the two torch bearers to express the ‘Spirit of Resilience’ which, at its heart, is a story of individual courage.

This began with Sir Ludwig Guttmann and extending to all those who have competed and triumphed in the Paralympic Games.

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games starts on Tuesday 24 August and will include 227 Paralympics GB athletes, competing in 19 of the 22 Paralympic sports.

They include archery, badminton, boccia, canoe, cycling, equestrian, judo, Para athletics, Para Powerlifting, Para swimming, rowing, rhooting para sport, table tennis, taekwondo, triathlon, wheelchair basketball, fencing, rugby and tennis.

A speech broadcast by video from Andrew Parsons, President of International Paralympic Committee, described the impact of the Paralympic Movement and how, through sport, it had changed so many people’s lives and altered the perception of disability across the world.

The Paralympic Flame was ‘a powerful uniting force’ said Mr Harriss.

‘Dr Ludwig Guttmann’s vision to transform the lives of people with disability through sport flourished and has now grown into something that today is widely regarded as the world’s number one event for driving social inclusion for those with disabilities.’

Hayashi Hajime, Japanese Ambassador to the United Kingdom, added: ‘Thank you very much for holding this inspiring Flame Lighting Ceremony.

‘Based on the legacy created at Stoke Mandeville, I hope the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will become a major catalyst for Japan and the world to embrace diversity even further.

‘I wish all the best to the Paralympian athletes from around the world who will be competing in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

Martin McElhatton, CEO WheelPower, said: ‘We were thrilled to welcome such esteemed British Paralympians to Stoke Mandeville Stadium for the much-loved Heritage Flame Lighting event. We hope Susie, Dave and Jane’s presence and involvement in this year’s ceremony inspires and motivates local and global audiences.’