Paralympics 2012

London torch behind schedule

2012-08-29 18:49
Paralympic Torch (File)

London - A second torch had to be created to ensure the flame can be lit at the Paralympics opening ceremony on Wednesday after the torch relay ran two hours behind schedule.

Thousands of people watched the flame pass by some of London's most famous landmarks ahead of the ceremony that will kick off the biggest and most-watched Paralympic Games in history.

Organisers insisted that reduced breaks in the relay would claw back the time, but a back-up flame has been created to ensure it can be used at the ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, which is due to start at 21:30 (SA time).

The delay was blamed on a ceremony which finished late in the spiritual home of the Paralympics, Stoke Mandeville.

The exchanges of the flame between relay participants have also taken longer than planned.

A spokesperson for local organisers LOCOG said: "Part of the flame has gone ahead to the stadium as a back-up contingency plan.

"The relay is going to continue."

The spokesperson said it was hoped the relay would still reach the stadium on time.

Cheers and prayers had earlier met the torch as it arrived at the Shree Swaminarayan Hindu temple in northwest London, before heading eastwards on a route that included Piccadilly Circus and Westminster Abbey.

Crowds also lined the streets, cheering and waving flags, as the torchbearers carried the flame down Abbey Road, the street immortalised by The Beatles.

Torchbearers recreated the band's famous pose on the zebra crossing that appears on the cover of their 1969 album named after the road.

Arvind Devalia, a writer who lives locally, said it was worth the three-hour wait to see the flame.

"For me it was about the atmosphere and the camaraderie," the 41-year-old said. "People were so friendly and chatty and it was such a great vibe."

The torch relay also swung by Lord's cricket ground and London Zoo.

Stephen Hawking, Britain's greatest living scientist, is to play a starring role in the opening ceremony.

Organisers said Hawking, who has motor neurone disease and has been paralysed for most of his life, would guide a central character on a journey of discovery in a story inspired by William Shakespeare's "The Tempest".

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