Paralympics 'will change attitudes'
The Paralympic Games will change attitudes towards disability around the world, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.
Speaking as torchbearers prepared to take the flame on a 24-hour relay to the Olympic Park, he said the Games were a "historic moment for the country that founded the Paralympic movement".
The Games are on course to be the first Paralympics to sell out, with more than 2.4 million tickets sold already - half a million of those to overseas visitors. Ten thousand tickets will be available each day during the event.
London 2012 chief executive Paul Deighton said: "We've tried to get as many people in as we reasonably can. This is a wonderful illustration of how the British public have said we love the Paralympics and want to be part of it."
Wednesday night's evening ceremony has already sold out, with 800 of the tickets given away to troops and police.
More than 3,000 adult volunteers are taking part in the opening ceremony, along with more than 100 children and a professional cast of 100. Some of the performers have completed a circus skills training programme to prepare for the performance, which will feature a high wire act.
Many details of the show have been kept under wraps, but Bradley Hemmings, who has been responsible for its organisation, alongside fellow artistic director Jenny Sealey, promised it would be "both spectacular and deeply human".
The ceremony, signalling the start of 11 days of competition by nearly 4,300 athletes from 166 countries, has been given the theme and title Enlightenment and features deaf artists and those with disabilities. It will begin with a flypast by Aerobility, a charity that trains disabled people to become pilots. The cast also includes past Paralympians and injured soldiers.
Ahead of the start of the ceremony, the Paralympic torch relay will have brought the flame to the Olympic Park in east London from Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire, where the Paralympic movement began in 1948. The relay, featuring 580 torchbearers in teams of five, consists of a 90-mile journey which is being undertaken overnight.
Mr Hunt said: "For many Brits this will be the first time they have seen the Paralympic Games at all. It will be a very big moment to really change perceptions and that will be something to be proud of."