By Tom Degun at the Main Press Centre on the Olympic Park in London

Stephen Hawking_29-08-12August 29 - Stephen Hawking, the British scientist who is the most famous disabled man on the planet, is set to star in the London 2012 Paralympic Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford this evening.

The 70-year-old from Oxford, who has motor neurone disease and has been paralysed for most of his life, will appear alongside a cast of more than 3,000 where the Queen will officially open the Paralympics as she did the Olympics.

Hawking is set to help begin proceedings at 8:30pm GMT tonight when the show, titled "Enlightenment", officially gets underway and he will speak to the 80,000 crowd and the millions watching the ceremony on television through his speech generating device.

The Opening Ceremony is being choreographed by co-artistic directors Jenny Sealey and Bradley Hemmings, who admitted they are delighted to have Hawking involved.

"The first thing we wanted to do with the Ceremony was get to the most famous disabled man in the world and that is Stephen Hawking," said Sealey.

"It has been brilliant working with him and to have him involved in this historic moment."

Hemmings also expressed his delight.

"We have been working with Stephen on this project for some time now and it has been a true privilege for us," he said.

"What has really come across is his humour and we have had a great time with him."

Ian McKellen_29-08-12
As with the Olympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies, William Shakespeare's famous play The Tempest will be the key thread running through the Paralympic Ceremony with British actor Sir Ian McKellen (pictured above) set to play the main character Prospero, who sends his daughter Miranda on her way through the Ceremony.

The ceremony itself promises to be a spectacular celebration of the inspirational spirit of the Paralympic Games that challenges perceptions of human possibility.

It will showcase the excellence of deaf and disabled artists as it opens with a fly past by Aerobility, a British charity that trains disabled people to become pilots.

It will conclude with the lighting of the Paralympic Cauldron, which was created at the birthplace of the Paralympics – Stoke Mandeville – yesterday evening and which has been bought to the Olympic Stadium in a 24-hour Torch Relay.

The lighter of the cauldron has been kept a secret and will be revealed at the ceremony tonight.

"Jenny and Bradley's spectacular Paralympic Opening Ceremony will be a great showcase of the skills and excellence of disabled artists," said Ceremonies director Stephen Daldry.

"The London 2012 Ceremonies are truly global events, with billions of people across the world watching the four shows.

"This is undoubtedly a fantastic opportunity to showcase talents to the world and I'm delighted that the Host Boroughs have such an important involvement."

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