Inspirational send off for Beijing 2022 Paralympic Heritage Flame

On Monday 28 February, an international spotlight was shone on Stoke Mandeville Stadium as it hosted the fifth Paralympic Heritage Flame Lighting Ceremony marking the beginning of the official five-day-long Paralympic Torch Relay for the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games.

The flame was ignited in the cauldron during an inspiring ceremony at Stoke Mandeville Stadium by Paralympian Wheelchair Curlers and official Torch Bearers, Angie Malone MBE and Aileen Neilson (escorted by cadets from RAF Halton).

Before the lighting of the cauldron, guests were treated to demonstrations and performances by Step Change Studio dancers and Stoke Mandeville Maulers Wheelchair Rugby Team. Speeches were also given by The Countess Howe, HM Lord Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire, Anna Scott-Marshall – Director of Communications at the British Paralympic Association and the Chinese Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Zheng Zeguang.

The Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games open on Friday 4 and will include 25 Paralympics GB athletes, competing in six different sports: alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, sled hockey, snowboarding and wheelchair curling.

Buckinghamshire continues to celebrate the growth of the Paralympic Movement from its origins at the first Stoke Mandeville Games in 1948, and Monday’s ceremony was the fourth time Stoke Mandeville has hosted an inspiring event showcasing the Paralympic Heritage Flame.

Andrew Parsons, President of International Paralympic Committee, said:

“Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend this year’s Paralympic Heritage Flame Lighting Ceremony as I’m already in Beijing for the start of the Paralympic Winter Games. However, it’s great to be able to celebrate Paralympic heritage at the birthplace of the Paralympics.”

The Paralympic Flame is “a powerful uniting force and we are so proud to be one of the key partners organising this event” said Councillor Clive Harriss, Buckinghamshire Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure.

“It’s incredible to see how far the Paralympic Movement has grown over the last 70 years from its inception here in Stoke Mandeville. Dr Ludwig Guttmann’s vision to transform the lives of people with disability through sport flourished and has now grown into something that today is widely regarded as the world’s number one event for driving social inclusion for those with disabilities.”

Zheng Zeguang, Chinese Ambassador to the United Kingdom, commented: “In two days, this flame will light up the Paralympic cauldron at China’s National Stadium, signaling the official opening of the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympic Games. This will be a call for Paralympic athletes from all over the world to come together under the Paralympic flag in pursuit of mankind’s eternal desire to challenge their limits, to better themselves and to live up to their passion for perfection and perseverance.

The Chinese Government regards the health and safety of all participants a top priority. We will make every effort to provide a sound competition environment for Paralympic athletes, and present to the world a streamlined, safe and splendid Paralympic event.”

Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Chloe Smith MP said: “I was honoured to attend the Paralympic Winter Games Heritage Flame Lighting Ceremony – and I can’t wait for the action to start.

“We’ve invested £32 million in Team GB and Paralympics GB winter sports to ensure our athletes can compete as one of the best supported and funded countries competing in Beijing.

“Our Paralympians have been training hard and I wish them the best of luck.”

Rob Wilson, WheelPower Chair of Trustees, commented: “We were thrilled to welcome such esteemed British Paralympians to Stoke Mandeville Stadium for the much-loved Heritage Flame Lighting event.  2022 marks a decade of flame lighting at Stoke Mandeville with the Paralympics coming home to Stoke Mandeville for London 2012, and a heritage flame has been lit every two years since for the Summer & Winter Games.”

Anna Scott-Marshall, Director of Communications at the British Paralympic Association said: “As the birthplace of the Paralympic Movement, Stoke Mandeville continues to be at its forefront, providing an environment that supports new and inclusive standards in sport, culture, health and education. The lighting of the Paralympic Heritage flame is an important moment for ParalympicsGB athletes about to compete on the world stage in Beijing.”