Dramatic start for Paralympic Games
The London 2012 Paralympic Games has opened in a dramatic and moving ceremony that had starring roles for the Queen and Professor Stephen Hawking.
A packed Olympic Stadium and millions more across the world watched as the "spectacular and deeply human" opening ceremony unfolded before double amputee Afghan war veteran Joe Townsend flew in on a zip wire to kick off the cauldron lighting ceremony.
Six Paralympians and former competitors - including Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson - were flown into the stadium in gold wheelchairs.
Accompanying the athletics star were fellow Paralympians Robert Barrett, Kay Forshaw, Tony Griffin, Ian Rose and Marc Woods.
The ceremony heralded the start of 11 days of elite sporting action featuring athletes from across the world and before sell-out crowds who have made this the most successful Paralympic Games in history.
Prof Hawking and actor Sir Ian McKellen played prominent roles in the opening ceremony, which also featured a host of deaf and disabled artists, local children and performers newly-trained in circus skills.
They were being officially opened by the Queen, who said in a statement released in advance: "It is with tremendous pride that the people of London and the United Kingdom welcome the world to the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
"The Games are returning to the country where they first began, more than 60 years ago.
"We look forward to celebrating the uplifting spirit which distinguishes the Paralympic Games from other events, drawing on Britain's unique sporting heritage."
Prof Hawking said: "The Paralympic Games is about transforming our perception of the world. We are all different. There is no such thing as a standard or run-of-the-mill human being but we share the same human spirit."