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A ceremonial cauldron has been lit in London’s Trafalgar Square to launch the Paralympic torch relay.
Claire Lomas, who was paralyzed in a horse riding accident, lit the cauldron from the English national flame kindled on Scafell Pike.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, London Mayor Boris Johnson and London 2012 chairman Lord Sebastian Coe attended the ceremony.
The relay travels from Stoke Mandeville to London overnight on Tuesday for the Games opening ceremony on Wednesday.
David Cameron marked the occasion by wishing Paralympic Games competitors good luck.
“After a fortnight of Olympics withdrawal symptoms, it’s time to dust off the GB flags and get ready for two more weeks of spectacular sport,” he said.
“Over these next two weeks, we’re going to have more of those moments that will bring us together and make us proud.
“We are going to show the whole world that when it comes to putting on a show, there is no country like Britain and no city like London.”
A ceremonial cauldron has been lit in London's Trafalgar Square to launch the Paralympic torch relay
Claire Lomas, who completed this year’s London Marathon in 16 days wearing a “bionic suit”, was left paralyzed from the chest down in a riding accident.
Using a Paralympic torch she lit the cauldron which will stand on the north terrace of the square outside the National Gallery.
She said: “It’s an amazing opportunity and I feel very proud and privileged to be asked.
“I wish everyone competing in the Paralympics loads of luck.”
During the event, 26 flame ambassadors from across England collected a flame in a lantern to take back to their local celebrations.
Lord Sebastian Coe said: “The national flame in England will help to light the way to the Paralympic Games.
“It will also give people the chance to celebrate the amazing achievements of the inspirational Torchbearers who all embody the Paralympic values of courage, determination, inspiration and equality.”
Later, he insisted that organizers strive to fill any untaken accredited seats during the Paralympic Games but denied there had been empty seats at Olympic venues.
“We didn’t have any empty seats, every venue was absolutely full to the gunwhales.
“What you’re talking about is the unscientific nature of accredited seats which happens at every Games.
“We will do what we can during the Paralympic Games to make sure that, for most of the time, those accredited seats are used.”
Mayor Boris Johnson said: “1948 was an amazing year for this country. The NHS, the first Land Rover, the first Routemaster bus was planned, Shakin’ Stevens was born somewhere in Wales and the Paralympic movement, which is something that’s grown massively now.
“The success of the Paralympics tells us something about Britain and the way the country has changed.
“The Olympics showed what we can do and I think the Paralympics will show what kind of people we are, what’s going on in our hearts.”
Before the cauldron lighting the flame visited the Royal Opera House. Later in the day it will be carried in front of performers from the Notting Hill Carnival, visit the Houses of Parliament and be taken on the Docklands Light Railway.
A giant Paralympic Agitos logo, the symbol of the Paralympic Games, has been suspended from Tower Bridge to herald the coming event.
Four national flames were kindled at the summit of the highest peaks in Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales on Wednesday.
Following on from the event in London, the national flames will be used to light cauldrons outside Stormont in Northern Ireland on Saturday, at The Mound in Edinburgh on Sunday and outside City Hall in Cardiff on Monday.
Next Tuesday the four flames will be brought together in Stoke Mandeville where they will create the Paralympic flame, signalling the start of the relay.
Starting out from Stoke Mandeville Stadium at 20:00 BST, the Paralympic flame will be carried 92 miles by 580 torchbearers, working in teams of five, through Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and London to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford.
There it will be used to light the cauldron at the opening ceremony of the Games on the evening of 29 August.
Triple jumper Phillips Idowu, former gymnast Nadia Comaneci and ex-basketball star John Amaechi will carry the flame on day 64 of the torch relay between Greenwich and Waltham Forest.
Nadia Comaneci and John Amaechi will meet on the roof of the North Greenwich Arena.
Pop star Dizzee Rascal and footballer Fabrice Muamba, who suffered a cardiac arrest during an FA Cup match in March, will also carry the flame.
Saturday’s 36-mile relay is the first full day in London.
Highlights will include visits to the Cutty Sark and the 2012 Games Equestrian Arena in Greenwich.
The day will begin at Greenwich Park at 07:22 BST and the first of 143 torches will be lit outside the Royal Greenwich Observatory.
It will be carried by 15-year-old Natasha Sinha, who was her nominated for her dedication to swimming and cross country running, and she will take the flame through Greenwich Park into the Games equestrian arena.
There it will be passed to another 15-year-old, Ella Statham, who was chosen for her volunteer work with the London Football Association.
Ella’s route will take her past Queen’s House and the Old Royal Naval College.
At about 07:43 BST the flame will be carried on a lap around the restored Cutty Sark ship, which was one of the last tea clippers to be built and was one of the fastest of its kind.
Triple jumper Phillips Idowu, former gymnast Nadia Comaneci and ex-basketball star John Amaechi will carry the flame on day 64 of the torch relay
The torchbearer at the Cutty Sark will be Sir Robin Knox-Johnson, who was the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world.
He also founded the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race in 1995 and has been a Cutty Sark Trustee since 2011.
Two hours later the relay will arrive at the Woolwich Live Site where Jaco Van Gass, a soldier with the First Parachute Regiment, will carry the flame.
The 25-year-old was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade while serving in Afghanistan, resulting in the loss of his left arm, a collapsed lung, punctured internal organs, loss of muscle and tissue from the upper left thigh, multiple shrapnel wounds and a fractured knee, fibula and tibia.
In 2011, Jaco Van Gass was one of four injured servicemen in the Walking With The Wounded team who set a world record by walking to the North Pole.
At about 09:52 BST legendary gymnast Nadia Comaneci – winner of five Olympic gold medals and the first gymnast to score a perfect 10 – will meet ex-basketball star John Amaechi on the roof of the North Greenwich Arena, where they will exchange the flame.
The arena is the venue for the London 2012 gymnastics events and basketball finals.
In Newham, British javelin legend Tessa Sanderson-White will carry the flame. She won gold at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles and is the only British woman to have done so in an Olympic throwing event.
Saturday’s relay will also include stints from London’s youngest and oldest torchbearers.
Chester Chambers, 12, was nominated for representing his classmates on the Thomas Tallis School Council, fundraising and helping to develop an anti-bullying. He will carry the flame in Greenwich.
At the other end of the age spectrum, centenarian Fauja Singh will carry his torch in Newham. The 101-year-old started his career as a marathon runner at the age of 89 and has now completed nine marathons.
His personal best time of 5 hours and 40 minutes was set at the 2003 Toronto Waterfront Marathon and is a world record for the over-90s. This year he completed the London Marathon in 7 hours and 49 minutes.
At about 14:20 BST Tahmina Begum will carry the flame at Stepney Green Park. The 19-year-old was the first qualified Bangladeshi female football referee and has been officiating local league football matches in east London since 2010.
Visits to Clissold Park, Hackney Town Hall and Leyton Cricket Ground will follow before Muamba carries the flame as the last torchbearer of the day.
The 24-year-old was playing for Bolton against Tottenham on 17 March when he had a cardiac arrest and collapsed on the pitch. It was later revealed that his heart stopped beating for more than an hour.
He was discharged from hospital on 16 April, having been fitted with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, and has not ruled out the possibility of playing professional football again.
An evening celebration, featuring entertainment from Rizzle Kicks and Twist and Pulse, will be held at Chestnuts Field in Waltham Forest.
The flame will be carried by a total of 8,000 people during its 8,000 mile, 70-day journey to the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in London on 27 July.
Olympic flame which will be used for the London 2012 torch relay has been lit during a ceremony in Olympia, Greece.
The flame was kindled by a “high priestess” who captured the morning sun’s rays in a parabolic mirror.
The ceremony came amid political and economic turmoil in Greece, the home of the Ancient Olympics, where a week-long leg of the relay will be held.
The flame flies to Britain on 18 May for a 70-day relay around the UK.
The lighting ceremony took place in front of the ruins of the Temple of Hera, next to the ancient stadium.
Actresses playing Olympic priestesses danced and men dressed as heralds put on a display symbolizing athletic strength.
“High priestess” Ino Menegaki then lit the flame in the bowl-shaped mirror and used it to light a Greek Olympic torch.
The flame – an Olympic symbol meant to represent purity because it comes from the sun – was then placed in an urn and taken to the stadium where the ancient Olympic Games were staged.
Olympic flame which will be used for the London 2012 torch relay has been lit during a ceremony in Olympia, Greece
LOCOG Chairman Lord Sebastian Coe, International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge and Hellenic Olympic Committee president Spyros Capralos were in Olympia for the moment marking the countdown to London 2012.
Lord Sebastian Coe said: “Today is the rallying call to the athletes – the best athletes of their generation – to come to London. That in itself is a big moment because it’s the biggest sporting event in the calendar.”
He told assembled Greek and Olympic dignitaries and a crowd gathered on the slopes of the stadium: “We are reminded this morning of sport’s enduring and universal appeal, and the timeless Olympic values that transcend history and geography; values which, I believe, in these challenging times are more relevant than at any time before and particularly to young people the world over.
“In 1948, shortly after the Second World War, my predecessor stood where I am today and made the first tentative steps in turning the world from war to sport.
“We find ourselves in challenging times again and turn to sport once more to connect the world in a global celebration of achievement and inspiration.”
In the stadium, it lit the London 2012 torch of Liverpool-born Greek world champion 10 km swimmer Spyros Gianniotis, who will carry it on the first leg of the relay around Greece.
He passed it on to Alex Loukos, 19, the first British torchbearer, a boxer and, in 2005, one of a delegation of east London schoolchildren who travelled to Singapore as part of London’s final bid for the Games.
Alex Loukos said: “It feels like I’m coming full circle.
“I went out to Singapore before we even knew that we’d won the Games and now I’m here, sort of kicking it off. It’s a big honor and a privilege and I’m just trying to take it all in.”
The torch is due to travel 2,900 kms (1,800 miles) through the country, carried by 500 torchbearers, on a route circling the country and travelling out to Crete.
Greece has seen huge demonstrations of social unrest in previous months, sparked by financial chaos and efforts to reach a deal with the European Union on a bail-out for the Greek economy.
Talks to try to form a new government have been ongoing after elections on Sunday failed to produce a conclusive result.
Several international companies including BMW have stepped in to help fund the torch’s journey.
The Greek section of the 2012 torch relay ends at the Panathenaic Stadium, Athens, on Thursday 17 May, where the flame is handed over to London Olympic Games organizers.
The stadium hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.
The last torchbearers in Greece will be Greek weightlifter Pyrros Dimas and Chinese gymnast Li Ning – who lit the cauldron at the Beijing 2008 opening ceremony.
The 2008 Olympic torch relay, which travelled the globe, was dogged by pro-Tibet, democracy and anti-China protests.
The 2012 flame will travel straight from Greece to the UK on 18 May, flying into the Royal Navy airbase at Culdrose, near Helston in Cornwall.
The UK torch relay begins at Land’s End the following morning when three times Olympic gold medal-winning sailor Ben Ainslie will be the first to carry the torch on British soil.
He wrote in the Daily Telegraph: “It is a privilege for me to be asked but, more than anything, it is an exciting moment for the country.
“The arrival of the torch on home soil really brings home how close the Games are.”
Carried by 8,000 torchbearers, the Barber Osgerby-designed torch will cover 8,000 miles across all of the country’s nations and regions.
It is due to reach the Olympic Stadium in Stratford on 27 July to light the cauldron at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.
For the ancient Greeks, fire was a divine element believed to have been stolen from the Gods.
A flame was first lit at the modern Olympics at the Amsterdam 1928 summer games, but it was not until Berlin 1936 that a torch relay route was set out from Greece to Germany.