Published Saturday, 25 August 2012
A ceremonial cauldron was lit at Stormont to start the torch relay. (© Getty)
A ceremonial cauldron was lit on the grounds of Stormont on Saturday morning to launch a region-wide torch relay to mark the upcoming Games.
After scouts lit four flames atop the highest peaks of the UK on Wednesday, including Slieve Donard in Co Down, to spark the Paralympic flame, the flame was carried by flame ambassadors to communities in Ballymena, Cookstown, Carrickfergus, Londonderry, Lisburn, Newry and Strabane.
Paralympian Angela Hendra MBE was one of the flame ambassadors who lit the Paralympic cauldron at the ceremony in the grounds of the Northern Ireland Assembly. She won Paralympic gold competing for Ireland in lawn bowls.
Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín said the ceremony should be about the inspiration of the games.
"Just as with the Olympic Torch relay, the Paralympic Flame festivities in Ireland are a showcase for all that is good and positive about our society," she said.
"Today is about celebrating worthwhile projects and inspirational people while showing support for those from Ireland taking part in the Paralympic Games.
"The Flame ambassadors who will take the Paralympic Flame to their respective areas are an inspiration in themselves."
The events will culminate with a lantern procession from the Waterfront Hall in Belfast and "agito", the Paralympic symbol which features the colours of red, blue and green circling around a central point, will be unveiled at the City Hall.
Former X Factor and Pop Star to Opera Star winner, Joe McElderry, will be performing at the Paralympic Flame Festival celebrations at City Hall on Saturday night.
"Everyone is encouraged to join in this event and it is important that we spread the Paralympic Games' ideal of human endeavour and energy across Ireland," Ms Ní Chuilín added.
"I hope all the torchbearers and flame ambassadors enjoy this celebration and take with them memories and experiences that last a lifetime.
"I also wish all our athletes from Ireland good luck in the Games. I hope they are successful in reaching all of their goals, be this taking part, exceeding personal bests or reaching the medal table."
The Paralympics, which starts next week, will see 4,280 athletes taking part in 503 events across 11 days of competition.