The London 2012 Paralympics began last night with an enthralling Opening Ceremony that proved the Olympics Opening wasn’t just a flash in the pan. Turns out we’re good at doing Opening Ceremonys. This one had the theme of enlightenment and was introduced by Stephen Hawking, the world renowned theoretical physicist, who has successfully continued his career for several decades whilst unable to move or speak without mechanical help as a result of motor neuron disease.
Peaking at just over 11 million viewers in the UK we saw an awesome display that included floating paralympians high above the arena, Sir Isaac Newton’s garden, and some glorious Big Bang fireworks. Meanwhile Sir Ian McKellen was on hand to play Prospero to Nicola Miles-Wildin’s Miranda as the show worked in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. ‘How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, That has such people in’t’ summing things up neatly.
Just as in the Olympics, the Paralympic Opening Ceremony has set the stage beautifully for a feast of sporting action. Again I’ll be looking at it both as a sports fan, supporting Team GB, and as a cognitive scientist. Indeed the Paralympics could be more intriguing than the Olympics from a cognitive science perspective. Not only can I marvel in all the smooth, skilled, goal-directed behaviour on show but I can also look at the technological solutions that some of the athletes have had to adapt to.