Belfast Telegraph

Summit lighting for Games flame

The highest mountain in Northern Ireland will witness the lighting of the Paralympic flame as the region prepares to celebrate the Games in London.

The Paralympic torch will be ignited at the summit of Slieve Donard, Co Down in the Mountains of Mourne as similar ceremonies are held on the tallest peaks in England, Scotland and Wales.

The flame will then travel to Belfast ahead of a programme of Paralympic themed events on Saturday, starting at Stormont in the morning with the lighting of a ceremonial cauldron and culminating with an open air evening festival at City Hall.

In between, mini flames will be taken to Ballymena, Cookstown, Carrickfergus, Londonderry, Lisburn, Newry and Strabane for their own celebration days.

Sports minister Caral Ni Chuilin encouraged people to join in the festivities. "The Paralympic flame is an opportunity to let the world see our positive side," she said.

"Unlike the Olympic flame, the Paralympic torch is not relayed throughout these islands but the symbolism of our celebrations on Saturday is no less important. We are preparing to support more brilliant athletes from Ireland in the forthcoming Paralympic Games.

"The flame will let us join together in an experience which celebrates sporting achievement, inspirational people and the human spirit."

After Saturday's events, the Northern Ireland flame will be united with the England, Scotland and Wales torches at the spiritual home of the Paralympics, Stoke Mandeville.

The flame will then begin a 24 hour, 92 mile journey to the Olympic Stadium in London with the help of 580 torchbearers. Two of those will be 18-year-old Gareth Burton from Coleraine and Niall Dempsey, 25, from Belfast.

Disability Sports NI chairwoman and former Paralympic medallist Angela Hendra said excitement was building ahead of the Games. "I am really excited for our Paralympians," she said. "I am really excited that we have reached this stage and I am looking forward to going to London and sharing that excitement and I only wish I could compete again."

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