The London 2012 Paralympic Games has opened in a dramatic and moving ceremony that had starring roles for the Queen and Professor Stephen Hawking.
A packed Olympic Stadium and millions more across the world watched as the "spectacular and deeply human" opening ceremony unfolded before double amputee Afghan war veteran Joe Townsend flew in on a zip wire.
Townsend, who is aiming to compete in the triathlon in Rio 2016, then passed the torch to current ParalympicsGB competitor David Clarke and Margaret Maughan, who won gold in archery at the first Paralympic Games in 1960 in Rome, then lit the cauldron, which is made up of 200 petals, 166 of which are inscribed with the names of competing nations.
Six Paralympians and former competitors - including Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson - were flown into the stadium in gold wheelchairs.
Accompanying the athletics star were fellow Paralympians Robert Barrett, Kay Forshaw, Tony Griffin, Ian Rose and Marc Woods.
The ceremony heralded the start of 11 days of elite sporting action featuring athletes from across the world and before sell-out crowds who have made this the most successful Paralympic Games in history.
Prof Hawking and actor Sir Ian McKellen played prominent roles in the opening ceremony, which also featured a host of deaf and disabled artists, local children and performers newly-trained in circus skills.
The Games were officially opened by the Queen who was escorted into the arena by the International Paralympic Committee president, Sir Philip Craven, who competed in five Paralympic Games from 1972 to 1988.
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."
Prime Minister David Cameron said of the Games: "They will create new role models, they will change attitudes to disability and they will have a positive impact on society."