The theme of the ceremony was ‘Enlightenment’, sending the audience on a journey of discovery through the realm of ideas, science and creativity.
Professor Stephen Hawking introduced the theme, urging people to create a brave new and better world, by challenging perceptions and stereotypes that limit the potential of the human body, mind and spirit.
‘Look up at the stars, and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.’
Hawking and actor Sir Ian McKellen acted as guides and inspiration to Miranda, a character from Shakespeare’s play 'The Tempest', taking her and a worldwide audience on a journey through time and great scientific discoveries.
In a humorous moment, the ceremony saw the world’s biggest apple bite in a tribute to Sir Isaac Newton and his discovery of gravity, as more than 60,000 audience members simultaneously crunched apples. Television viewers were also asked to bite an apple at home at the appropriate moment.
The spectacle also explored deep space with a ‘big bang’ sequence performed by 600 volunteers and a voyage across a sea of ideas in a giant upturned umbrella boat.
The story ended in the dynamic world of contemporary London and the realm of current scientific endeavours.
The ceremony combined operatic performances with alternative British urban punk and international cinema cult music and songs, dramatic high-wire aerial performances and dance movements across the roof of the stadium.
The stadium's advanced technology was used to full effect, including rapid-moving shapes and formations created by pixel technology that transformed audience seating areas into a giant screen.
‘The Paralympic Games is about transforming our perception of the world... The Games provide an opportunity for athletes to excel, to stretch themselves and become outstanding in their field.’Professor Stephen Hawking
In the Athletes' Parade more than 4,000 sportsmen and women from 164 teams entered the Stadium to celebrate the start of the Games.
Seb Coe, Chair of the London 2012 Organising Committee, greeted athletes by reminding them of the UK's unique Paralympic heritage: 'Welcome home to a movement that shows what sport is all about.’ Read more about Seb Coe's speech.
Sir Philip Craven, President of the International Paralympic Committee, said, 'Tonight is the start of something extremely special. Tonight is about welcoming the world to a global Games, an event where we will experience every single emotion, including ones we never thought possible.'
After Her Majesty The Queen declared the Paralympic Games officially open, servicemen and women from the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force raised the Union and Paralympic Flags.
The close of the ceremony saw the lighting of the Paralympic Cauldron. Royal Marine Commando Joe Townsend – an aspiring Paralympic triathlete – emerged with the Torch at the top of the ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture, just outside the Stadium, and travelled by zip wire into the stadium.
He handed the Torch to David Clarke, a visually-impaired footballer, who passed it to the final Torchbearer, Margaret Maughan.
Britain’s first gold medallist at the first Paralympic Games at Rome 1960, she lit a single tiny flame within one of the copper petals of Thomas Heatherwick’s Cauldron, triggering the ignition of all the other petals.
Stephen Hawking’s final address provided a moving tribute to the athletes. He said: ‘The Paralympic Games is about transforming our perception of the world... The Games provide an opportunity for athletes to excel, to stretch themselves and become outstanding in their field. So let us together celebrate excellence, friendship, and respect.’
The London 2012 Paralympic Opening Ceremony was created by artistic directors Jenny Sealey and Bradley Hemmings.
The show was supported by a cast of more than 3,000 adult volunteers, 100 child volunteers and more than 100 professional performers.
View a 360 degree photo inside the Stadium during the Opening Ceremony.