Paralympic Heritage Flame lighting ceremonies
In 2012, Stoke Mandeville celebrated its role as the birthplace of the Paralympics, playing a central role in the London Paralympic Torch Relay.
Since then, Stoke Mandeville Stadium has hosted a Flame Lighting Ceremony to mark the start of each Paralympic torch relay.
The first Paralympic Heritage Flame at Stoke Mandeville was lit to mark the Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi. Stoke Mandeville became the first place in history to be involved in the Paralympic Torch Relay outside of the Games’ hosting country.
The Heritage Flame was generated by the gold medal winning British wheelchair racer Hannah Cockcroft MBE. The flame was lit from inside a beautiful artwork, an Armillary Sphere. The sphere was created by the acclaimed theatre designer Jon Bausor. It represented the Greek God Hephaestus, who was disabled and said to have invented the first wheelchair.
In 2016 former wheelchair racer Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE and skier Kelly Gallagher MBE took centre stage at a glittering event, part of the Rio Paralympic Games.
Professional performers and volunteers told the story of The Seeds of Diversity. This performance depicted the growth of the Paralympic Games. It told the story of its origins in Stoke Mandeville in 1940 to the worldwide sporting event it is today.
The 2018 ceremony included the Spirit of Endeavour, a story of individual courage. The story started with Sir Ludwig Guttmann and included all those who have competed in the Paralympic Games.
The Flame Lighting took place in 2021 and was particularly poignant marking the start of the delayed Games following the global covid-19 pandemic. The flame was lit by Paralympians Susie Rodgers MBE and Jane Blackburn. A Heritage Cauldron was specially commissioned and designed with input from local students.
Winter paralympic athletes Angie Malone MBE and Aileen Neilson were the Official Torchbearers as the flame was once more ignited at Stoke Mandeville Stadium.