The show, which starred more than 3,000 volunteers, explored the themes of science and creativity and was introduced by British physicist Professor Stephen Hawking, who urged the audience to, “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.”
From the Big Bang to Sir Isaac Newton’s discovery of gravity, the ceremony took the audience on a journey through scientific breakthroughs, featuring a variety of musical performances, dance segments and acrobatic high-wire sequences.
Sir Philip Craven, President of the International Paralympic Committee, said: “Tonight is the start of something extremely special. Tonight is about welcoming the world to a global Games, an event where we will experience every single emotion, including ones we never thought possible.”
The capacity crowd in the Olympic Stadium also watched in awe as 24-year-old former Royal Marine Joe Townsend, who lost both legs in the conflict in Afghanistan, glided into the arena on a zip wire while carrying the Paralympic flame.
After his dramatic descent he handed the flame to David Clarke, a member of the British Paralympic football team, who then passed it to Maughan, who won Britain's first Paralympic gold medal at the 1960 Rome Games.
The 84-year-old then lit the Paralympic cauldron, signalling the start of 11 days of competition that will see more than 4,000 athletes compete for 503 gold medals across 20 sports.
Since the inaugural edition in 1960, the Paralympic Games have always been held in the same year as the Olympic Games| and have taken place in the same cities and venues since Seoul in 1988.