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'Spirit in Motion' opens Paralympics

LONDON -- Volleys of fireworks lit up the night sky, Beverley Knight belted out “I am what I am,” and Britain's first Paralympic gold medalist lit the cauldron to open the 2012 London Paralympic Games.

It was a night of empowerment for the disabled worldwide. “Enlightenment” was the theme, physicist Stephen Hawking the guide and Olympic Stadium the venue Wednesday as the British capital welcomed 4,200 athletes from more than 160 nations.

The extravaganza, directed by Bradley Hemmings and Jenny Sealey, was billed as a voyage across “a sea of ideas” — including Isaac Newton's discovery of gravity, the force that all Earth-bound athletes strive against. The show included 73 deaf and disabled professional performers and 68 disabled people among its 3,250 volunteers.

Sebastian Coe, chief of the London organizing committee, issued a big welcome home “to a movement that shows what sport is all about.”

“Sport is about what you can do, what you can achieve, the limits you can reach, the barriers you can break. Sport shows what is possible. Sport refuses to take no for an answer,” Coe told the audience of 60,000.

The London event is on track to be the most-watched Paralympics ever, with 2.5 million tickets expected to be sold by the time it ends Sept. 9.

As the athletes paraded in under a full moon, a huge roar filled the stadium for South African flagbearer Oscar Pistorius, the sprinter who is making history by running in both the Olympics and the Paralympics this year. Glittery ticker tape and a standing ovation then greeted the enormous British team as they entered to the David Bowie song “Heroes.”

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Britain's flag bearer, wheelchair tennis veteran Peter Norfolk, leads his team into the arena during the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Paralympics in London, Wednesday, Aug. 29.

(AP)

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