Paralympics wrap-up: Opening Ceremony

The Paralympics kicked off in London on Wednesday night with a breathtaking opening ceremony that combined art and science with raw humanity, including a yearning plea for all people to be treated equally. As the Queen formally declared the Games open, London 2012 chair Seb Coe noted that this was the first time the Paralympics have been held here since they were first staged at the London 1948 Games.

Narrated by Stephen Hawking and Ian McKellen, the ceremony used an umbrella theme and included quotes and characters from Shakespeare's The Tempest, which was also the basis for the opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympic Games. The Paralympics ceremony also included a performance of the late Ian Dury's disability protest anthem Spasticus Autisticus and concluded with Beverley Knight's moving rendition of I Am What I Am.

The Paralympic flame was carried down into the stadium on a zip-wire from the adjacent Orbit tower by Royal Marine commando Joe Townsend, who is training to be a Paralympian in Rio 2012. The cauldron was lit by Britain's first ever Paralympic gold medallist Margaret Maughan.

Britain's Channel 4 started its telecast with a short feature about Martine Wright, a 39-year-old who lost both legs in the July 7th Underground bombings the day after London was awarded the Games in 2005. Now she's here competing as part of Britain's women's sitting volleyball team.

On Thursday, the first 28 gold medals will be up for grabs in a variety of sports including track cycling, judo and powerlifting. The first medal will be awarded in the women's 10-meter air rifle event, in which 58-year-old Deanne Coates of Britain is the favourite.

And more than half of Thursday's gold medals - 15 in total - will be given out in swimming events. The competitor to watch is America's Jessica Long, the world champion and world record holder in the 100-meter butterfly who already has seven Paralympic titles under her belt.