PARALYMPICS LONDON 2012: Dazzling, sometimes puzzling, ceremony signals start of another storied Games
WELCOME to the sequel, more storied days in E20 and this production certainly won't be going straight to video.
BIG WELCOME: Two time Paralympic champion Peter Norfolk carried the British flag into the opening ceremony (Action Images)
Sunshine may have been replaced by a long-range forecast that is fifty shades of grey but the Paralympics Games opened in a colourful and noisy celebration that dazzled and puzzled in equal measure.
Margaret Maughan, Britain's first-ever Paralympic gold medallist at the 1960 Games in Rome, lit that now famous cauldron after some help from aspiring Paralympian Joe Townsend and David Clarke, who will captain Great Britain’s five-a-side football team at these Games.
Double Paralympic wheelchair tennis champion Peter Norfolk led the home town in to cue patriotic scenes not seen here for, well, at least a month, The Queen declared the Games open, this time without help from 007, and Tanni Grey Thompson flew above the track, rather than around it, on a high-wire.
In the days ahead you’ll hear a lot of them but it's not the back story that matters at the Paralympics. These athletes don't want sympathy, they want support. They would rather you cheer or even boo than be condescending or contrite.
Yes, they have overcome trials and adversity. They have triumphed after struggles - that most Olympian of ideals - but they would rather be defined and remembered by what they achieve on the field of play, after all there is no greater leveler in a world of barriers and obstacles than sporting competition.
If they lose, they lose. They're not plucky or brave, they are fourth, fifth or 23rd.
These aren't a victims' Games or a survivors' Games. It's not a sob story, it's a sports story.
UK Sport don’t invest £49 million in disability sport to be charitable, they want, expect and demand results that will be measured in those precious commodities of gold, silver and bronze.
Watch events unfold over the next week and a half as nothing but sport, pure and undiluted, played at the very highest level for the very highest stakes.
Not a single athlete here wants pity, that would only set the Paralympic movement, a vision born in these Isles 64 years ago, back rather than allow it to spring forward into a new age of inclusivity and diversity.
Eight years the Paralympics was described to me by one then leading journalist as a spastics sports day where 'all the retards get a medal'.
He wasn’t even joking, although he was a joke. Thankfully times have moved on a little since and, even more thankfully, so has he.
But hopefully these Games will do a job in finally educating him and the country about disability, because there is much work to be done with ignorant idiots still in a sizeable minority.
After all hate crime against disability groups is on the rise, according to recent figures, and one stuffed shirt of an MP still thinks it appropriate to use the derogatory phrase 'window licker' to describe someone whose opinion he doesn't like.
And there still countries in the world where disabled people are ostracised from society, locked out of view and forgotten as if they are some kind of permanent stain.
More than 200 countries sent delegations to the Olympics but 147 are attending the London Paralympics - good but still much work still to do.
Perhaps we should take time to listen to celebrated British scientist Professor Stephen Hawking, who has always allowed hope and optimism to conquer the odds, no matter how insurmountable.
‘Look up at the stars, and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious," he told an Olympic Stadium, who were last as hushed in anticipation before Usain Bolt’s 100m final.
“We are all different, there is no such thing as a standard or run-of-the-mill human being but we all share the human spirit.
"However, difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at."
© Sportsbeat 2012
SPECTACLE: The first of many sell-out Paralympic crowds watch the opening ceremony at London 2012
ROUSING RECEPTION: Great Britain's team were last into the stadium - and were greeted by David Bowie's Heroes
STAGE IS SET: The opening ceremony overran by more than 45 minutes and was focused on British scientific discoveries
© Sportsbeat 2012