Channel 4: Welcome to the Greatest Games

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Just weeks after London staged an unforgettable Olympics, packed with enough iconic imagery to make a year-long montage, we get to do it all over again at the Paralympics.

Channel 4: Welcome to the Greatest Games

Channel 4: Welcome to the Greatest Games

As with the Olympics, there will be an opening and closing ceremony, and a 24-hour torch relay that will travel 87 miles from Stoke Mandeville, the birthplace of the Games, to the Olympic Stadium, carried by 580 inspirational torchbearers.

Just weeks after London staged an unforgettable Olympics, packed with enough iconic imagery to make a year-long montage, we get to do it all over again at the Paralympics.

A total of 4,200 athletes from 166 countries are braced for 11 days of world-class competition that is certain to parallel the drama, the heartbreak and the unbridled joy served up on a silver sporting platter by our two-week Olympic adventure.

By the end of the biggest Paralympics ever seen the names of Ellie Simmonds, Jonnie Peacock and David Weir will (hopefully) share equal billing alongside Hoy, Ennis and Farah as titans of a British team as it strives to improve on the 42 gold medals from Beijing.

No doubt the other 165 participating countries will be doing their level best to nuzzle in between our ParalympicsGB team and the warm glow of patriotism that is sure to emanate from the biggest crowds the Games has ever attracted.

The likes of legendary Oscar ‘Blade Runner’ Pistorius, the current 100m, 200m and 400m champion from South Africa, Dutch wheelchair tennis player Esther Vergeer, who is unbeaten since 2003, and Alex Zinardi, the Italian ex-Formula One driver turned paracyclist, are sure to captivate the watching public.

What is it?

The Paralympics is the second biggest sporting event on the planet, behind its illustrious cousin, with disabled athletes competing across 21 disciplines during 11 days of competition.

The staple events, such as track and field, cycling, rowing, equestrian and swimming are joined by sports that might be new to some people, like boccia, goalball and wheelchair rugby, otherwise known by its slightly more sinister moniker “murderball.”

There are five different disability groups within the Paralympics: amputee, cerebral palsy, visual impairment, spinal cord injuries and a final group called ‘Les Autres’ that includes athletes outside of those classifications.

As with the Olympics, there will be an opening and closing ceremony, and a 24-hour torch relay that will travel 87 miles from Stoke Mandeville, the birthplace of the Games, to the Olympic Stadium, carried by 580 inspirational torchbearers.

The history

The first ever summer Paralympic Games was held in Rome in 1960 but its origins lie in the small town of Stoke Mandeville, an hour’s drive north of the capital, near Aylesbury.

It was there that the godfather of the Games, Dr Ludwig Guttman, staged a wheelchair archery competition on the same day in 1948 that London held the Olympics opening ceremony.

Initially for World War Two soldiers with spinal injuries, the competition was expanded to include other sports and more athletes four years later, culminating in the inaugural Games in Italy that featured 400 athletes. The Paralympics has expanded rapidly with each edition since.

Our greatest team

The eruption of emotion and pride that greeted each Team GB medal in the Olympics was magical, and all the signs point to another record haul of metal for our Paralympians. Only the might of China won more gold medals at the 2008 Games, with Britain beating the United States to second place.

ParalympicsGB claimed a total of 102 medals, 42 of them gold, last time round. Ellie Simmonds swam her way into the nation’s hearts as a 13-year-old in Beijing and she’ll be looking to add to her two golds in London. Cycling superstar Sarah Storey - formerly a swimmer - will be bidding to add to her seven gold medals as she competes in her sixth Paralympics but Lee Pearson can top that, with nine golds to his name in the equestrian field.

Jonnie Peacock represents a genuine threat to Oscar Pistorius’s sprinting supremacy, breaking the world T44 100m record in July, while David Weir and Hannah Cockroft are also primed to deliver top honours on the track. Make no mistake, our 288-strong team is hell-bent on a medal frenzy.

After the Games are over, ParalympicsGB will join their Team GB colleagues for a parade through central London on September 10, when the British public can offer up one final, noisy round of thanks for an unparalleled summer of sport.

The coverage

Channel 4 will broadcast around 500 hours of live coverage, including both the Opening and Closing ceremonies, giving a sporting fix for those with severe Olympic Games withdrawal symptoms.

As well as the television coverage, the C4 Paralympics website will feature the major stories, video streaming, dedicated live commentary and a wealth of information.

  • For all your latest 2012 Paralympics news, follow @C4Paralympics on Twitter and like the C4Paralympics Facebook page

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Amy Lawson
Channel 4
0207 396 4444
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