On Thursday 19 August, an international spotlight was shone on Stoke Mandeville Stadium as it hosted the fourth Paralympic Heritage Flame Lighting Ceremony marking the beginning of the official five-day-long Paralympic Torch Relay for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
The flame was ignited during an inspiring ceremony at Stoke Mandeville Stadium by Paralympians and official Torch Bearers, Susie Rodgers MBE and Jane Blackburn. The 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 exciting event as part of the build up to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Local families as well as sports men 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 beginning with Sir Ludwig Guttmann and extending to all those who have competed and triumphed in the Paralympic Games. The ceremony looked to honour the individual resilience of all those people with disability who are able to use sport as their route to rehabilitation and Paralympic glory.
Buckinghamshire continues to celebrate the growth of the Paralympic Movement from its origins at the first Stoke Mandeville Games in 1948, and last night’s ceremony was the fourth time Stoke Mandeville has hosted an inspiring event showcasing the Paralympic Heritage Flame.
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games commences on Tuesday 24 August and will include 227 ParalympicsGB athletes, competing in 19 of the 22 Paralympic sports including: Archery, Badminton, Boccia, Canoe, Cycling, Equestrian, Judo, Para athletics, Para Powerlifting, Para Swimming, Rowing, Shooting Para sport, Table Tennis, Taekwondo, Triathlon, as well as Wheelchair Basketball, Fencing, Rugby and Tennis.
A moving 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 changed the perception of disability across the world.
The Paralympic Flame is “a powerful uniting force” said Councillor Clive Harriss, Buckinghamshire Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure.
“It’s incredible to see how far the Paralympic Movement has grown over the last 70 years from its inception here in Stoke Mandeville. 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, commented:
“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.”
Andrew Parsons, President of International Paralympic Committee, said:
“Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend this year’s Paralympic Heritage Flame Lighting Ceremony as I’m already in Tokyo for the start of the Paralympic Games. However, it’s great to be able to celebrate Paralympic heritage at the birthplace of the Paralympics.”
Martin McElhatton, CEO WheelPower, commented:
“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.”
As the birthplace of the Paralympic Movement, Stoke Mandeville continues to be at its forefront, providing an environment that supports new and inclusive standards in sport, culture, health and education, and will continue to host the Paralympic Heritage Flame Lighting Ceremony for future Paralympic Games.