SA flag flies high as Paralympics kick off
30 August 2012
Oscar Pistorius, a triple gold medalist in Beijing four years ago, proudly bore the flag as Team South Africa joined the parade of nations at the spectacular opening ceremony of the 2012 Paralympic Games in London on Wednesday.
A crowd of about 62 000 spectators at the London Olympic Stadium were entertained by a three-hour show full of British humour and ingenuity. The professional cast included 73 deaf and disabled performers, while the volunteer cast of 3 250 hailed from all over the world and ranged in age from 10 to 80 years old.
Guided by celebrated scientist Stephen Hawking, the ceremony explored the twin themes of reason and rights and was led by the character Miranda from Shakespeare's play The Tempest, heralding 11 days of competition for Paralympians from across the globe.
South Africa will be contesting athletics, cycling, equestrian, rowing, swimming, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis, and the country's 62-strong team is determined to improve on the strong showing of the team that scooped 21 gold medals and 30 in total in Beijing in 2008.
Cyclist Roxy Burns will be Team SA's first individual athlete in action when competition gets under way on Thursday, taking part in the 3000m pursuit qualification rounds, while cyclist Jaco Nel will line up for the one-kilometre time trial.
Dressage riders Anthony Dawson and Marion Milne will also be in action on Thursday, along with Paralympics legend Natalie Du Toit and Beijing gold medallist Kevin Paul in the swimming pool.
On Thursday night, the men's wheelchair basketball team will face probably their toughest test of the tournament when they take on world and Olympic champions Australia.