Live Commentary: Paralympics Opening Ceremony - as it happened

Live Commentary: Paralympics Opening Ceremony - as it happened
© PA Photos
Join Sports Mole for live coverage of the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Seventeen days after the flame was extinguished on the Olympic Games, the world's second largest sporting competition is about to begin.

Over the next 12 days, more than 4,000 Paralympic athletes will compete in 20 sports - everything from archery to swimming and rowing to wheelchair rugby.

At tonight's ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, The Queen will officially open the London 2012 Paralympic Games in front of a televised audience of billions.

Join Sports Mole for live coverage over the coming hours as the Games begin.

Note that all times in this blog are UK.

12.09amAnd with that, the Paralympics opening ceremony comes to a close. Thanks for joining us tonight and stick with Sports Mole over the next fortnight for all the action!

12.05amMiranda and Prospero are having a sing along. In fact everyone in the stadium is now doing the same.

12.03amAs always, she's looking and sounding great. Fireworks light the London sky, and rock the floor of my flat.

12.01amWith the cauldron burning brightly, here's Paul McCartney! No, it's Beverley Knight with her cover of 'I Am What I Am'.

12.00amShe has the honour of lighting the cauldron.

11.59pmHe hands it to David Clarke, blind GB football star, who runs with the flame onto Britain's first ever Paralympic gold medallist, Margaret Maughan.

11.56pmHawking's back to welcome the Paralympic torch, which is arriving by zipwire. Carrying it is 23-year-old double amputee Joe Townsend, who lost both legs in Afghanistan.

11.55pmA very moving montage of the journey of the Paralympic torch through the UK.

11.54pmProspero encourages Miranda to set us free. YES MIRANDA, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE SET US FREE.

11.49pmA tribute to the Large Hadron Collider leads in to a performance of 'Spasticus Autisticus' by the late Ian Dury.

11.48pm"Our greatest adventure still lies ahead," they say in unison, walking off hand in hand.

11.47pmGandalf is giving Miranda another pep talk.

11.42pmEveryone in the stadium - well, those that are still awake - simultaneously bite an apple.

11.41pmMiranda's now found herself in Newton's garden, clutching an apple.

11.38pmDavid Toole - a dancer without legs - soars through the sky like a bird, passing Miranda, as the crowd applauds.

11.36pmMore performance art. Meanwhile, it's really bittersweet for Laura Robson as she has just knocked out Kim Clijsters from the US Open in the last match of her career. More detail on that here.

11.34pmMiranda's in danger of getting giddy here. Her boat is being tossed around and around.

11.33pmThe Tempest arrives.

11.31pmHawking muses: "There ought to be something very special about the boundary conditions of the universe, and what can be more special than there is no boundary?"

11.30pm"Discover new worlds!" bellows Gandalf.

11.29pm"Miranda, look to the light," urges Prospero. A boat arrives to take her away.

11.26pmIt's all got very ethereal. Soothing vocals as various paralympian athletes float in the air brandishing the weapons of their respective sports.

11.23pmProspero expels the virtues of books as a giant book in the centre of the stadium is revealed.

11.22pmCue the Paralympic Ian McKellen.

11.21pmCue the Paralympic oaths.

11.17pmCue the Paralympic anthem. Or the Countryfile themetune.

11.15pmCue the Paralympic flag!

11.14pmCue fireworks.

11.13pmWell this is embarrassing. Queenie is back to "declare open the London 2012 Paralympic Games". Excellent delivery.

11.10pmCraven is giving an extended history lesson.

11.07pmCraven is up next. He too addresses Queenie at the start of his speech, but we all know she's already at home watching tonight's Celebrity Big Brother on Sky+.

11.06pm"Prepare to be inspired, prepare to be dazzled, prepare to be moved by the Paralympic Games of London 2012," he concludes.

11.05pm"The enthusiasm for these Paralympics is extraordinary. The crowds will be unprecedented. These will be Games to remember."

11.02pmSeb Coe and Sir Craven come out for some speeches. Sebby is first up. "Today on behalf of every Briton and every lover of sport, it is my great honour to say, welcome home to the Paralympic Games."

10.58pmThats enough of that. Blind opera singer Denise Leigh, who won Channel 4's Operatunity (seriously), performs original commission 'Spirit in Motion'. It's about being as free as a bird.

10.51pmQueenie has done a runner but Wills is still there. No sign of Harry or the royal chopper tonight.

10.48pmThe British dignitaries are on their feet. Boris looks particularly happy.

10.47pmParalympicsGB are finally here. Bowie's 'We Can Be Heroes' is the anthem again as confetti rains down.

10.44pmOnly a few minutes now until Team GB arrive. The flagbearer will be Peter Norfolk, veteran wheelchair tennis gold medallist.

10.41pmTeam USA are out in force.

10.36pmJust 14 countries to go now!

10.34pmMore lunges from the Rustie Lees. They'll soon be doing burpees.

10.31pmClare Balding chats with Martine Wright, the 7/7 victim profiled earlier. "It's just absolute amazement that I'm finally here," she says. She's now representing Team GB as a sitting volleyball athlete. "In my mind, this has really got me through. When i go through that stadium in a few minutes' time, I'll feel like I've done a complete circle."

10.28pmOver in the tennis, Laura Robson has taken a surprise one-set lead over Kim Clijsters - more on that here. Meanwhile, Real Mardid are leading ten-man Barca 2-1 at the break in the Supercopa. Full story on that here.

10.26pmA beaming Oscar Pistorius proudly waves the South African flag.

10.18pmBig cheer for the mighty Russian team.

10.15pmThe Peruvians are giving it some 'tude, coming out as they do with two flags apiece.

10.11pmThe Nigerians arrive very suspiciously, and even stop for a moment to stare into the camera. They're playing mind games. Competitive.

10.09pmBig cheer for New Zealand.

10.02pmThey're all dressed in a beautiful array of colourful ponchos.

10.01pmWe're as far as Mexico. The assistant-to-the-flagbearer is doing a shuffle dance.

9.49pmThe Japanese emerge. Back in the studio, Jon Snow is no doubt muttering something about Pearl Harbor.

9.46pmThe Iraqis are wearing hats made of balloons. Boris watches on.

9.45pmIraq enter the stadium. Thank the lord they've switched jon Snow off for this one.

9.40pmGuru-Murthy is back now as Iceland enter the stadium. The army of Rustie Lees are doing lunges.

9.37pmElsewhere, young British hopeful Laura Robson's US Open encounter with the retiring Kim Clijsters has just got underway. Follow the action with us here.

9.35pmThe happy clappers are now happy wavers.

9.34pmAn interesting discussion about how wheelchair technologies aren't as advanced in certain nations is interrupted by Snow reminding of Georgia's troubles. "I don't want to hark on about this," he assures us.

9.33pmSnow: "That's an impressive array of wheels."

9.33pmSnow: "That's an impressive array of wheels."

9.32pmElsewhere, el Clasico has just got underway. Follow Real Madrid vs. Barcelona here.

9.29pm"Fiji strong in the high jump," stutters Snow. See? Y ou can say positive things, Jonathan!

9.28pm"Ethiopia still in mourning for the loss of their Prime Minister," notes Snow. He's really embodying the spirit of "inspire a generation" tonight.

9.25pmClare Balding's backstage with some Irish athletes. I do apologise, I can't make a word out they're saying. Something about Guinness I think.

9.24pmDanish athlete is travelling backwards in his wheelchair. Now now, no-one likes a show-off.

9.23pmThe athletes from the "dreadfully wartorn" Congo arrive. Snow informs us that 45,000 people die every month there.

9.22pmSnow is slating people who tweeted while carrying the torch. "I don't understand how you can do both," he says.

9.21pmSnow: "The Cubans are taking pictures. Not sure they'll be texting."

9.20pmJon Snow is now providing commentary on the countries that come out, cheerfully describing the civil wars that have ravaged each nation. Come back Trevor Nelson, all is forgiven!

9.16pmHere come the Chinese. A monstrous team, the defending champions.

9.15pmThe Rustie Lee army are now all clapping happily.

9.12pmCanada look like a force to be reckoned with as they come out en masse.

9.04pmA Belgian woman in a wheelchair has covered her guide dog with Belgian flags. He's a fairly ineffective guide dog as it happens, content enough to just hitch a ride on her lap and let her do all the work.

8.59pmYou'll recall that during this part of the Olympics opener, there were lots of people in the background banging drums. This time we have people all dressed like Rustie Lee doing a variety of silly dance moves.

8.58pmElsewhere right now, it's half-time in the League Cup tie between Everton and Leyton Orient, where the Toffees are smashing it 4-0.

8.56pmSpare a thought for the Queen here. This summer she's already sat through two hours of flags at the Olympics and five hours of boats during the Jubilee.

8.55pmSmart-arse Krishnan corrects me. 164 countries. Botswana and Malawi have pulled out.

8.54pmYou know the drill here. The good news is that there are slightly fewer nations to get through than the Olympics, 166 versus 204.

8.53pmWe return from an ad break as Newton's big apple is being wheeled out. The athletes are now coming in, country by country.

8.48pmNational anthem. Less pompous than usual. It's the acoustic version.

8.46pmMilitary people carry the British flag around the stadium. Guru-Murthy helpfully points out that people in the stadium are applauding. It's almost like we're there ourselves.

8.45pmWithout further ado, here's Queenie, plus Paralympics head honcho Sir Philip Craven.

8.43pmMiranda watches on.

8.42pmVarious people are making menacing noises.

8.41pmMore umbrellas, representing the Higgs boson, come out.

8.40pmA giant apple rolls out, as does a giant book representing the Declaration of Human Rights.

8.39pmThe umbrellas form an eye. Miranda's in her wheelchair floating above the eye.

8.38pmHawking's back. "Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder what makes the universe exist. Be Curious."

8.37pmProspero (McKellen) appears and talks to Miranda, encouraging her to stretch her wings and fly. "Will you take this journey for all of us and set us free?"

8.35pmThere appear to be some audio problems in the stadium or with the TV broadcast, as two versions of Rihanna can be heard. Like the time there were two Paul McCartneys heckling each other at the Olympics opening ceremony.

8.34pmUmbrellas everywhere now. People on rollerskates with umbrellas, people flying through the air with umbrellas...

8.33pmRain falls. A version of Rihanna's signature hit 'Umbrella' plays out. I assume Hawking is having a bop.

8.32pmHundreds of people dressed in white, carrying white umbrellas, fan out from the epicentre. Fireworks shoot from the roof of the stadium.

8.31pm"Even if we do find a complete theory of everything, that is just a set of rules and equations," he says. A miniature big bang occurs in the centre of the stadium.

8.30pmA giant model of the moon is high above Steven Hawking.

8.29pmHere we go. Jeff Adams and Krishnan Guru-Murthy are our commentators.

8.26pmThe poor woman was unfortunately sitting next to one of the bombers on the tube and lost both legs in the incident. She wells up as she recalls being found trapped under rubble. Ugh, first lump in the throat.

8.24pmSix minutes to go now. On Channel 4 now, there's a VT of a woman rendered disabled by the 7/7 terrorist attacks. The attacks on London's transport infrastructure happened the day after London was selected as the host city for the 2012 Games.

8.20pmI'd happily spend the next 11 years of my life waking up to watch Clare Balding talking about dancing horses. Another ad break.

8.18pm"The irrepressible Clare Balding," observes Snow, before promising 11 YEARS of Balding's Paralympic coverage. He of course means 11 days, but what a thought.

8.17pmClare Balding is hanging out with some of the Australian athletes backstage. "We're keen to just get in there and get the job done," says one of them confidently.

8.16pmBoris recalls watching wheelchair basketball in Beijing. "It's far more violent," he enthuses, positively frothing at the mouth.

8.15pmBoris is down in the stadium. "Attitudes have changed a lot in this country the last 10-20 years. People know that Paralympic sports are incredible to watch. Also the Olympics has created an enormous appetite."

8.14pmChat about Oscar Pistorius. "Commercially he's as big as many of the Olympic athletes," says Edwards, who has clearly done his research. Names, dates, stats - he has it all at his fingertips.

8.12pm"A large umbrella, although it's not raining," observes Jon Snow of the "mysterious" scene down inside the Olympic Stadium. Now less than 20 minutes to go.

8.07pmThe first ad break. We'd best make the most of them.

8.06pmCameron praises Channel 4's 'Superhuman' poster. "I think this will change a lot of people's minds and inspire a lot of people too," he adds.

8.04pmDavid Cameron is over in the stadium. "It's a great atmosphere. It really says something that for a a Paralympics opening ceremony, there are 90,000 people in this incredible auditorium." I think he's just increased the capacity by 10,000 there.

8.03pmHe's joined in the C4 studio by Jonathan Edwards and Paralympic basketball player Ade Adepitan, who affectionately refers to the area as "Stratty".

8.01pmChannel 4's coverage of tonight's proceedings begins. Jon Snow introduces a VT outlining the history of the Paralympics.

7.58pmAlso on Sports Mole tonight, we'll have live commentary of the decisive second leg of the Supercopa between Barcelona and Real Madrid. Our coverage there begins at around 8.30pm.

7.56pmOf course there's another major sporting event already underway. Make sure you keep an eye on our live commentary of the US Open, where young British hopeful Laura Robson is in action in around 30 minutes.

7.53pmAmong the performers tonight is Beverley Knight MBE, who will be performing a cover of 'I Am What I Am'.

7.52pmThe presenters of Channel 4's coverage tonight will be Jon Snow and Krishnan Guru-Murthy. Thankfully there's no Trevor Nelson in sight.

7.48pmConditions over in Stratford tonight are clear and cool, with a temperature of around 16 degrees.

7.46pmThe broadcaster is also laying on three dedicated channels to stream live coverage of Paralympic events. A come-down from the incredible 24 channels offered by the BBC, but still, Channel 4's coverage will represent the most comprehensive ever offered for a Paralympic Games.

7.45pmHere in the UK, the official television broadcaster of the Paralympics is Channel 4, whose coverage begins at 8pm tonight. The channel is effectively clearing its schedule to make way for the Games over the next twelve days. Apart from Come Dine With Me, The Simpsons and Hollyoaks, which will all air as usual. Of course.

7.44pmThe Paralympic torch has been doing the rounds today but poor weather conditions have led to it being three hours behind schedule. Organisers have confirmed that a backup torch will be used to light the cauldron tonight.

7.41pmAt the Beijing Paralympics, China dominated with a staggering 89 golds. Great Britain were second with 42 golds, just edging the United States, who had 36.

7.40pmThe sporting action gets underway first thing tomorrow morning. There are a host of medals up for grabs on day one, with the first gold expected at around 1pm in the women's air rifle.

7.38pmThe spectacular opening performance will be followed by the parade of athletes (aka 'The Very Long Flags Bit'), a series of speeches and the lighting of the cauldron.

7.36pmThe ceremony will also feature the Big Bang, Sir Isaac Newton (everyone attending the Olympic Stadium tonight has been given an apple to eat in unison) and the Large Hadron Collider.

7.34pmShakespeare's The Tempest featured in both the Olympics opening and closing ceremonies and will also play a heavy role here. The characters Miranda (played by Nicola Miles-Wildin) and Prospero (Sir Ian McKellen) will serve as our guides.

7.33pmThe ceremony will last under three hours. It's called 'Enlightenment', and has a very strong science theme. Professor Stephen Hawking will appear to narrate an "exquisite journey" of scientific achievements, mirroring the boundaries pushed by the Paralympic athletes.

7.31pmWhat can we expect from tonight? Well, it's not going to be quite as epic as the Olympics opening ceremony. Organisers have refused to divulge the exact budget, but it is thought to be less than half of the �27m spent to open up the main Games.

7.30pmWelcome to our coverage of the Paralympics opening ceremony! We're now just an hour away from the main event.

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