Professor Stephen Hawking Calls for New Age of Enlightenment at Spectacular London 2012 Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony

LONDON–(ENEWSPF)–30 August 2012.  In a rare public appearance, internationally acclaimed and celebrated British scientist Professor Stephen Hawking inspired the world tonight with a global message of hope and optimism at the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Hawking, one of most respected, innovative and original thinkers of our times, urged the world to be curious and to create a brave new and better world for everyone, by challenging perceptions and stereotypes that limit the potential of the human body, mind and spirit.

‘Look up at the stars, and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious,’ Hawking urged ceremony spectators and international television and internet audiences who watched the Ceremony on TV and online, and added that ‘however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.’

Professor Hawking delivered a series of new statements and messages and played a key role in the ceremony combining soaring operatic performances with alternative British urban punk and international cinema cult music and songs, dramatic high wire aerial performances and dance movements across the roof of the stadium. The Ceremony’s high technology special effects also included dramatic multi coloured and rapid moving shapes and formations created by pixel technology that transformed audience seating areas into a giant screen for high impact digital images, including sea and solar landscapes.

Stephen Hawking called for a new age of enlightenment as he acts as a guide to Miranda, one of the characters from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, taking Miranda, Sir Ian McKellen, and a worldwide audience on a journey through time and the great discoveries that have changed our perceptions about the possibilities of the human mind and spirit and the physical universe.

In the best traditions of quirky British humour, tonight’s ceremony also involved the world’s biggest apple bite in a tribute to Sir Isaac Newton. The massive collective  crunch took place in the appropriately named Gravity section of the ceremony and involved more than 60,000 audience members simultaneously taking a bite from thousands of apples that were given on arrival at the ceremony. TV viewers were also asked to bite an apple at home at the appropriate moment.

Seb Coe, Chair, London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), welcomed the world to the home of the Paralympic Games. In his speech in the Ceremony he said: ‘The enthusiasm for these Paralympic Games is extraordinary. The crowds will be unprecedented. These will be Games to remember. Prepare to be inspired. Prepare to be dazzled. Prepare to be moved by the Paralympic Games of London 2012.’

The London 2012 Paralympic Opening Ceremony was created by artistic directors Jenny Sealey and Bradley Hemmings and provided a theatrical and emotional homecoming for the Paralympic Games. The Ceremony was overseen by the team of Executive Producers who were in charge of all four Olympic and Paralympic Ceremonies, including Oscar winning film director Stephen Daldry.

Athletes from 164 teams paraded into the Stadium early in the Ceremony to be seated on the field of play. The Ceremony, inspired by their achievements, unfolded in front of them set to a score of classical and dance music.

A new choral commission ‘Principia’ by Greenwich composer Errollyn Wallen was performed by six London based choirs including the Hackney Singers, London Gay Men’s Chorus, the London Chorus, Lewisham Choral Society, Barts’ Choir and Hackney Community Choir before the arrival of Her Majesty the Queen who, following speeches by London 2012 Chair Sebastian Coe and International Paralympic Committee President Sir Philip Craven, officially declared the London 2012 Paralympic Games open. Nine servicemen and women from the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force raised the Union Flag to the accompaniment of Benjamin Britten’s arrangement of the National Anthem, performed by the 430-strong choir.

Continuing the theme of Shakespeare’s play ‘The Tempest’ seen in the Olympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies, the central character of the Paralympic Opening Ceremony was Miranda, played by disabled actress Nicola Miles Wildin and guided by a Prospero character played by famous British actor Sir Ian McKellen. Miranda led the audience through a journey of discovery inspired by the wonder of science and its power to transform perceptions,

Their journey looked out into deep space following a dramatic interpretation of the ‘big bang’ performed by 600 volunteers, before encountering a Stadium sized library where Miranda investigated the twin themes of the Ceremony ‘reason and rights’, a voyage across a sea of ideas in a giant upturned umbrella boat, a spectacular recreation of Isaac Newton’s 17th century garden before ending up in the dynamic world of contemporary London where Ian McKellen and Miranda walked together towards an exciting future and current scientific endeavours, such as the Large Hadron Collider.

As well as a 3,000 volunteer performers and a children’s cast from the Host Boroughs, the London 2012 Paralympic Opening Ceremony featured soprano Elin Manahan Thomas performing Habdel’s ‘Eternal Source of Light Devine’; contemporary whirling dervish dancer Ziya Azazi creating the eye of the storm during Miranda’s ‘storm of ideas’; 16 year old singer songwriter Birdy performing Anthony Hegarty’s ‘Bird Gerhl’ to accompany a solo dance by leading disable dancer and performer David Toole; Gandini Juggling performing during a section celebrating Sir Isaac Newton’s discoveries; a new track by British electronic duo Orbital used in section celebrating Britain’s lead in modern scientific discoveries; Graeae Theatre Company’s performance of the late Ian Dury’s disability anthem ‘Spasticus Autisticus’; and the Beverley Knight was joined by Lizzie Emeh and Caroline Parker grand finale of the Ceremony which saw a rousing performance of ‘I Am What I Am’.

The Ceremony also featured a spectacular aerial performance by 42 Deaf and disabled ariel performers who have been specially trained to perform at height. Having taken part in an eight week circus skills training programme funded by Arts Council England, they will feature throughout the Ceremony showcasing their new found skills. They include established performers as well people new to the arts such as rehabilitating soldiers and non competing Paralympians.

Stephen Hawking’s final address provided a moving tribute to the athletes. He said: ‘The Paralympic Games is about transforming our perception of the world. We are all different, there is no such thing as a standard or run-of-the-mill human being, but we share the same human spirit. What is important is that we have the ability to create. This creativity can take many forms, from physical achievement to theoretical physics. However difficult life may seem there is always something you can do, and succeed at. The Games provide an opportunity for athletes to excel, to stretch themselves and become outstanding in their field. So let us together celebrate excellence, friendship, and respect. Good luck to you all.’

Then a short, emotionally charged film showed the journey of the Paralympic Torch to the Stadium and pyrotechnics in the colours of the Paralympic logo were set off around the Stadium roof. At the end of the film, Royal Marine Commando Joe Townsend – an aspiring Paralympic triathlete – emerged with the Torch at the top of the ArcelorMittal Orbit, just outside the Stadium, and descended on a zip wire onto the field of play.

Joe Townsend handed the Torch to David Clarke, a visually impaired athlete competing in the ParalympicsGB 5-a-side Football team, who took the Flame towards the Cauldron.

He passed it to the final Torchbearer, Margaret Maughan, Britain’s first gold medallist at the first Paralympic Games at Rome 1960, who lit a single tiny flame within one of the copper petals of Thomas Heatherwick’s Cauldron, triggering the ignition of all the other petals. The elegant stems gently rose towards each other and convergde to create one great Flame of unity. Golden dandelion seeds spread around the audience pixel screen echoing the imagery from the natural world that inspired Heatherwick’s Cauldron design.

The new classical compositions, choral works and pop classics will feature on ‘Enlightenment – Music For The Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games’ released digitally in its entirety after the ceremony after midnight on Thursday 30 August 2012. The specially created album features a new version of ‘I Am What I Am’, the Gloria Gaynor classic performed by Beverley Knight, alongside the new music composed for the Ceremony.

Jenny Sealey and Bradley Hemmings, Co-artistic Directors of the London 2012 Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony said: ‘The Paralympic Games is the second largest sporting event in the world, and its taking place in our home city.  We couldn’t be prouder to have been asked to direct the Opening Ceremony.

‘We wanted our Ceremony to be both spectacular and deeply human. Having worked together over a number of years we were determined that the Ceremony should speak from the heart, tell a story, showcase our world leading Deaf and disabled artists and rise to the emotional and historic occasion of the homecoming of the Paralympic Games.

‘We had an awesome creative team, a wonderful professional cast and an extraordinary team of volunteers to open the Paralympic Games and welcome the athletes with a theatrical and fun ceremony.

Stephen Hawking said: ‘I was delighted and honoured to be in the Ceremony and welcoming the Paralympian athletes to London as part of the Paralympic Opening Ceremony.’

Nicola Miles Wildin said: ‘I was so excited to play the role of Miranda and help to tell the story of the Paralympic Opening Ceremony. ‘The Ceremony will celebrated the amazing athletes and the arts as well as showing how talented and diverse this country is. I was just proud to be a part of it.’

Beverley Knight said: ‘Being a part of the last night’s show was not only awe-inspiring but thought-provoking. Enlightenment was an apt title for the ceremony; the ‘Spasticus Autisticus’ segment was simply brilliant. I was so proud to have been sharing the stage with true supermen and women.’

Birdy said: ‘I’m so proud and excited to be a part of the Paralympics, supporting the UK and welcoming such amazing athletes to London.’

Denise Leigh said: ‘Being the first to perform a new composition is always an exciting undertaking. To have the honour of doing it at the Paralympic Opening Ceremony in front of such a massive audience both in the Stadium and at home makes it doubly wonderful. I’m just thrilled to have been a part of such a wonderful event and the memories will remain with me forever.’

Mark Williams MBE, Artistic Director/Chief Executive of Heart n Soul said: ‘Heart n Soul has been credited with inventing learning disability culture 26 years ago. We’re very proud and honoured to present our award-winning artists – Lizzie Emeh and The Fish Police – and to be involved in such a historic occasion.’

Elin Manahan Thomas said: ‘The ceremony is a celebration not just of Great Britain, but of disabled people all around the globe, and the incredible achievements of which they’re capable. It’s a stunning opening to these Games, which I think will make Britain proud, and make the whole world sit up and cheer on these amazing athletes. I’m honoured to be playing just a small part in it and to be one of a cast of thousands, who’ve given time, energy and endless enthusiasm to bring together a truly mind-blowing show!’

Caroline Parker said: ‘We showed them how it should be done, this is not a rehearsal-this is life.’

Danilo ‘DJ’ Walde said: ‘Taking part in the 2012 Paralympic Opening Ceremony is a dream come true. To be a part of the celebration of the true Paralympic spirit and to be part of Bradley and Jenny’s vision is an honour. I hope we’ve made London proud once more and we’ve continued to celebrate the London 2012 Legacy.’

DJ Excalibah said: “I don’t think I could feel more proud than I do today, spending my 30th birthday DJing to a worldwide audience plus the 80,000 people here. I grew up in this area and to be a part of Jenny and Bradley’s vision of Enlightenment for the true home of the Paralympic Games is quite possibly the biggest moment of life. I’m so proud of all the volunteers I’ve met who are helping to tell this incredible story. Let the games begin!”

David Clarke said ‘It is a great honour to be asked to play such a prominent role in the Opening Ceremony, I am very proud to be a Paralympic athlete and represent blind football.’