Paralympics: Stephen Hawking to narrate opening ceremony
Published: 29th Aug 2012 15:23:19
Professor Stephen Hawking will help narrate a scientific "journey of discovery" at the Paralympic opening ceremony, it has been revealed.
The world-renowned physicist, who has motor neurone disease, will appear live at Wednesday's event at the Olympic Stadium.
Called Enlightenment, the show will start at 20:30 BST and will showcase the talents of disabled performers.
Oscar-nominated director Stephen Daldry has been involved in its production.
A capacity crowd of 80,000 people will watch the ceremony in east London, which will be opened by the Queen and watched by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Organisers say the ceremony's central themes will be empowerment and the challenging of perceptions of human possibility, and it will welcome home a Games which started in 1948 in Stoke Mandeville.
A 24-hour long Paralympic torch relay began in the Buckinghamshire town on Tuesday night and will culminate at the opening ceremony later on Wednesday.
The flame will be carried by 580 torchbearers in total, and after being carried past some of London's most famous landmarks, will be used to light a scaled-down version of the Olympic cauldron.
The organisers have revealed that Prof Hawking will act as a guide to Miranda, a character from William Shakespeare's play The Tempest, through the show.
The pair will be joined by Prospero, another character from the play, which will be played by British actor Sir Ian McKellen.
Bradley Hemmings, one of the Paralympic opening ceremony's artistic directors, said the team approached Prof Hawking towards the end of 2011.
"We worked very closely with Professor Hawking to develop a series of messages which are very much integrated into the storytelling of the ceremony.
"We have spent time with him [Prof Hawking] in Cambridge and have been so incredibly gratified with him giving his time".
Prof Hawking - a British theoretical physicist and former Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge University - is famous for his work around the Big Bang theory and his book A Brief History of Time.
In 1963, the professor was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and given just years to live. But Prof Hawking, now aged 70, went on to defy the odds with a glittering career in the scientific arena.
Mr Hemmings praised the professor's "humanity and humour", saying "he is a fun guy".
The start of the show will also feature a fly-past by Aerobility, a British charity that trains disabled people to become pilots.
Fifty specialist performers in the ceremony have taken part in an eight-week circus skills training programme in Hackney, east London.
Hemmings's fellow artistic director Jenny Sealey said: "You will be taken on the most exquisite journey of discovery inspired by the wonder of science.
"Both Hawking and McKellen in their narrative talk about what we all need to remember: don't just look down at your feet, look at the stars, be curious."
Sealey would not revealed the cost of the event, but said it had been put together on a "prudent budget".
About £27m was spent on Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle's spectacular Olympic opener, with the remaining £53m divided between the Paralympic opening event and the closing ceremonies for both Games.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is expected to tell Paralympians at an official pre-ceremony reception that the return of the Games to Britain will be a "showstopping homecoming".
Mr Clegg is expected to say that the UK is "on the brink of making history".
"What began in Britain 64 years ago, with 16 World War II veterans competing in the Stoke Mandeville Games, returns tonight as the biggest Paralympics of all time.
"We want to go further, faster in London 2012. If 1948 was the birth of the Paralympic movement, let 2012 be a milestone in its journey," he will add.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Paralympics: Stephen Hawking to narrate opening ceremony . [Online] (Updated 29 Aug 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news.php/1448791-Paralympics-Stephen-Hawking-to-narrate-opening-ceremony [Accessed 19th June 2013]
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