Friday 31 August 2012


“I’m Spasticus, I’m Spasticus
I’m  Spastiicus Autisticus
I’m Spasticus, I’m Spasticus
I’m  Spasticus  Autisticus
I’m Spasticus, I’m Spasticus…”

Ian Dury of The Blockheads 

If  Ian  Dury  had still been alive, he died in March  2000, he would have been  on that  stage in the middle of that  Olympic cauldron in  Stratford,  East London the other night, yelling and  screaming out those lyrics. Instead it fell to the wonderful Graeae Theatre Company to proudly play his part. Those words sung by Drury, a polio victim, full of manic energy, staggering in his crippled state and hanging on to the microphone  precariously for support, exploding with  energy and anger at  the gaze of most,  pounding out that song, dripping with sweat,  on a stage, confronting everybody  with his  disability showed  us what paraplegics are capable of. They are capable of everything. Ian Dury wasn’t hiding his disability, he was thrusting disability at us, telling it how it is. The 4,200 paraplegic athletes at that wondrous opening ceremony of the Paralympics  were there to show the world what they can do, to show the utmost effort, skill and achievement. In the words of Seb Coe the organiser of both the 2012 Olympics and the Paralympics here in London,
“  prepare to be inspired, prepare to be dazzled, prepare to be moved.”

The Opening ceremony to The Paralympics 2012. The statue of Alison Lapper.

The theme of  the opening ceremony  was Enlightenment. There was more than one  layer of meaning  encapsulated  in that  theme. There was the historical  Enlightenment which involved, Sir Isaac Newton and his understanding of gravity and the universe right up to the recent Hadron Collider based in Lucerne that has smashed atoms at  such  speeds that scientists  have detected the Higgs  Boson particle which has changed the study of physics  and how we understand the universe. The whole stadium, using a light show, became the Hadron Collider with a moving commentary by Stephen Hawking the paraplegic  professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University.

A giant copy of the 1948 Universal declaration of Human Rights flicked over it’s pages in the middle of the  stadium.

Article 1.

  • All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

 Ian McKellen  played Prospero from Shakespeare’s, The Tempest with  Nicola Miles Wildin, who used her wheelchair at times, playing Miranda. Prospero sent Miranda shooting high into the air above the stadium  to smash the glass ceiling that blocks so many avenues of progression for paraplegics and the ceiling crashed to the ground in a multitude of shards. Destroyed!
Miranda looked about her and proclaimed,

“ o wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankingd is! O! Brave new World that has such people in it!”

I must add, not, The Brave New World of Aldous Huxley, far far from that.A human loving Brave New World. We can only hope and strive.

Marc Quinn’s giant sculpture of a beautiful, erotic, naked, and  pregnant  Alison Lapper sitting squatly with stumps for arms and deformed legs, dominated the stadium at one stage.

The theme of enlightenment not only covered the historic period of Enlightenment in Britain in the 18th century and all its  great themes of exploration, discovery and science but it was also about enlightening us about people with physical disabilities. The main theme seemed to be saying there are no disabilities just different ways of perceiving and doing.

The end of the ceremony had Beverley Knight singing,
 “I am what I am
I don't want praise I don't want pity
I bang my own drum
Some think it's noise I think it's pretty
And so what if I love each sparkle and each bangle
Why not try to see things from a different angle…”
Her voice is so powerful and strong. She filled the whole stadium with her voice and 80,000 voices sang along with her. I had tears in my eyes.

Ian Dury's Spasticus  Autisticus being performed at the opening ceremony of The Paralympics.

“Iam what Iam…….. I’mSpasticus, I’mSpasticus, I’m Spasticus autisticus!!!!!!!!”

The period of Enlightenment. Isaac Newton perceived an example of gravity when an apple fell on his head.

To end the ceremony, Royal Marine, Joe Townsend, who lost both his legs while on duty in Afghanistan after standing on a hidden explosive in a road, flew into the stadium along a zipwire from the top of Anish Kapoors adjacent observation tower  holding the Olympic torch aloft. Margaret Maughn, who received Britain’s first Paralympic gold medal at the first Paralympics in Rome in 1960, waited in her wheelchair to receive the torch. She lit the Olympic cauldron.
The Paralympics were an invention by Dr Ludwigg Guttman at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in 1948. Soldiers returning from the conflict in Europe with horrendous injuries improved their whole disposition by playing sport.  Dr Guttman discovered that by taking part in archery and other sports adapted to their needs  soldiers recover mentally, socially and emotionally from horrendous amputations.



  1. Human beings can be amazing, can't they! Can't say more.

  2. Jean, it was a very uplifting ceremony and very entertaining and thought provoking on many levels, just a like a good novel ha! ha!
    It challenged you to think about what it is to be disabled or able bodied. It would be good to get to a situation where people didn't look at the disability, they looked at the person and their talents. These paralympics should help promote that attitude I hope.

    Thanks for your comment, Jean.


  3. Tony, I loved what Christopher Reeve said when he lost the use of his limbs, the gist of which was that 90% of him was still capable and in good shape. The only thing he had lost was the use of his lower body. Your enthusiasm for the Paralympics shines through this post. Sadly, the coverage in the States has been close to zero. One would think such an uplifting event would be on the front pages every day. Thank you for this account.

  4. It is up lifting because it still continues, Vic.. Is it that your TV channels think they will not get the audiences followed by the revenues?

    The Paralympic games have been awe inspiring more so than the the Olympics themselves in many ways.They are really inspirational. The viewing numbers have equalled the viewing numbers for the Olympics and the stadiums have been full. Many of our paralympians are national heroes now.Society really does need to change it's attitude. These are highly talented strong people. They just do things differently.

  5. To continue the theme of enlightenment...
    Nicola Miles Wildin is not, in fact 'wheelchair bound'... she was not in her wheelchair for most of the ceremony, and certainly not when she flew up to smash the glass ceiling at the end!
    Sorry, it's a persnickety linguistic thing I know, but can't resist commenting as it's one of the medicalised terms the social model of disability aims to smash!

    Otherwise really enjoyed your thoughts on the ceremony though!!!

  6. Anonymous, thank you for your comment. I have edited the post. All the best, Tony