Coldplay’s Chris Martin gave a rousing rendition of the band’s hit song Paradise during an emotionally uplifting closing ceremony held to mark the end of the 2012 Paralympic Games.
Complementing a cast of hundreds, including performers with disabilities, other global stars, including Jay-Z and Rihanna, also captured the moment for a world audience inspired by the performances of 4,200 athletes from 164 nation states.
Some of the feats that have amazed viewers over 12 days of competition included Matt Stutzman, born without arms, who took silver for the US in the archery competition; the visually-impaired Ukrainian athlete Ruslan Katyshev, who claimed the F11 *long jump gold; and US swimmer Mallory Weggemann, a paraplegic who raced against rivals with function in only one limb, to claim gold in the S8** 50m freestyle.
Other heroes include: Jason Smyth, of the Republic of Ireland, who held his ground as the fastest Paralympian of all time when he ran the T13* 100 metres in a record 10.46 seconds; Rim Ju Song competing for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the S6*** 50m freestyle, who only learnt how to swim this year; and cyclist Sarah Storey of Great Britain in the 64km road race.
The closing show at East London’s landmark stadium treated an audience of 80,000 to a spectacle of acrobatics, pyrotechnics and quirky fantasy vehicles including a giant mechanical fish, a bright green grasshopper and a steamship ablaze with light.
Captain Luke Sinnott, who lost an arm and both legs in the war in Afghanistan, opened the ceremony when he performed the rite of climbing the flagpole to unfurl the British flag.
British swimmer Ellie Simmonds, who won gold in the 400-metre S6*** freestyle medley, and British sprinter Jonnie Peacock, who won gold in the T44**** 100 metres, extinguished the flickering flames of London’s Olympic cauldron.
At the end of the ceremony the Olympic flag was passed to the Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, which will host the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Speaking at the closing ceremony, LOCOG Chairman, Sebastian Coe said: “The Paralympic Games has set new records every day, sporting records, records for crowds, for television audiences, for unbridled spirit.
In this country we will never think of sport the same way and we will never think of disability the same way.”
And declaring the 2012 Paralympics closed, International Paralympic Committee (IPC) president, Sir Philip Craven, said: “These Games have changed us all forever.”
Sport Classes explained
* T/F11-13: The three sport classes 11, 12 and 13 are allocated to athletes with varying degrees of visual impairment, with sport class 11 including athletes with the lowest vision and sport class 13 including athletes with the best vision meeting the minimum disability criteria.
**S8 SB7 SM8:
Swimmers who have lost either both hands or one arm. Also, athletes with severe restrictions in the joints of the lower limbs.
***S6 SB5 SM6: This sport class includes swimmers with short stature, amputations of both arms or moderate coordination problems on one side of their body.
These sport classes are designated for athletes with limb deficiencies, such as amputations. In the sport classes 42-44 the legs are affected by impairment and in the sport classes 45-46 the arms are affected, for example by above or below elbow amputations.