Paralympic flame tours Cardiff for festival and relay

The final Paralympic cauldrom to be lit before the Games has been welcomed by young people involved in disability sport and hospital patients.

The Welsh flame arrived in Cardiff on Monday and the cauldron was lit by gold medal-winning cyclist Simon Richardson before a splinter flame was flown to events in Colwyn Bay.

The flame was taken to disability sports events and also a hospital.

The day will end in Cardiff Bay with a torch relay and a festival.

Coach Owain James carried the lantern around the House of Sport coaching academy in Cardiff after it was earlier taken around Rookwood Hospital.

The flame was sparked at City Hall by Paralympian cyclist Simon Richardson. About 100 people gathered to watch the cauldron being lit, with Chariots of Fire being played as the clock struck 08:00 BST.

Image caption The flame arrives at the House of Sport coaching academy, near the Cardiff City Stadium

The cyclist from Porthcawl won two gold and a silver at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics, and was hoping to take part in London 2012 before he was knocked off his bike while training last summer by a motorist over the drink-drive limit.

He said: "I would have preferred to have been competing but this is the next best thing. It was such a shock to get the phone call asking me to do this."

Sports Minister Huw Lewis said the lighting event at City Hall was perfectly poignant.

"Simon Richardson perfectly embodies the courage and determination of the Paralympic spirit," he said.

The flame was then shown to patients at Rookwood rehabilitation hospital in Llandaff.

The flame was flanked by a team of Metropolitan Police officers in BMWs as it made its way to Rookwood. The hospital has specialist spinal and neurological rehabilitation wards, and has treated many past Welsh Paralympic athletes.

Image caption Simon Richardson sparks the Paralympic flame outside Cardiff City Hall

Two gold-coloured lanterns, with a silver 2012 logo, were given to nursing staff Margo Lord and Miriam Jenkins before a tour of the hospital.

One patient, Geoff Thomas Vennard, 61, of Barry, is in the hospital after falling at home.

He said: "I've been in hospital now for around nine months and am looking forward to getting home.

"So getting to see the flame and the excitement surrounding it has been a real boost."

The ward clinical director, Jenny Thomas, said: "The Paralympics can be a fantastic source of inspiration to many patients like the ones we look after.

"It just shows that it is still possible to achieve things - and that is evident by the number of many Paralympians we have helped over the years."

The flame then went on to the House of Sport, near the Cardiff City Stadium.

Owain James, who coaches four of the six impairment groups which Cardiff City runs in partnership with Sport Cardiff, said: "I've enjoyed myself.

"Firstly I was nervous but I can't believe it's me who was picked."

Chris McDermott, Cardiff City's disability football coordinator added: "With the Paralympics being on, anything you can do bring publicity is going to bring people in."

The flame then went on to the Hayes in the city centre, where disability sports demonstrations are taking place.

The sports included wheelchair basketball, rowing and judo, and six-year-old Harry Aiken had a go at table tennis.

His mum Nickie, from St Fagans, said: "We are going to the Paralympics because it's in Britain.

"The Olympics is one thing but it's really important to show the children anyone can succeed, no matter what their ability is."

Alastair Sloan, from Radyr, Cardiff, had a go at judo to show his five-year-old son it is a safe and fun sport.

Image caption Charlotte Church performed at the Wales Millennium Centre

Mr Sloan said: "The Olympics was such a huge success and this is a real springboard that should move the Paralympics forward.

"The disability sports here today makes it accessible. People can see disability sport is high quality, high standard and good fun."

As the flame arrived, so did the rain, hampering the arrival of the flame in the Hayes. But those who braved the elements had the chance to have their pictures taken with one of the lanterns.

Elis Davies, nine, had a go at rowing and had his picture taken with the lantern. "He saw the Olympic torch and wanted to see the Paralympic torch, which is just as important," said his mother, mum Hannah Davies, of Cardiff.

A splinter of the flame was flown by helicopter to Colwyn Bay, where a mini-relay was held at Parc Eirias.

The sports centre also hosted a basketball tournament and demonstration of disability sports, including football, swimming and boccia.

The day culminates in the Flame Festival at Cardiff Bay from 19:00 BST where there will be a lantern procession of 200 people accompanying the torch bearers' relay as it arrives in Roald Dahl Plass on its way to Stoke Mandeville - the spiritual home of the Paralympic movement.

Only Kids Aloud, who were in a video played during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, will perform, as will Only Men Aloud.

Hundreds gathered at the Wales Millennium Centre to see Charlotte Church perform as part of the Paralympic celebrations in Cardiff Bay.

She received a huge ovation as she took to the stage in the foyer to perform some of her new material.

The crowd were told before she came on that she was releasing five new EPs over the next 12 months, the first of which was being released on Monday.

Cardiff is the last of four cities in the UK to hold a festival marking the arrival of the Paralympic flame. Flames from Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England will unite before a relay to Wednesday's opening ceremony.

From Cardiff the flame will be taken to Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire, where it will be united with flames that were lit on the highest peaks in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Representatives from Swansea and Conwy lit a lantern from the Cardiff cauldron to take the flame to their associated celebration events.

A ceremony will be held on Tuesday and a single Paralympic flame will be created for the 24-hour torch relay that ends at the Paralympic Stadium on Wednesday.

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