Stephen Hawking to star in Paralympics opener
LONDON - Agence France-Presse
Stephen Hawking. AP PhotoBritain's most-famous living scientist, Stephen Hawking, was to appear at the opening ceremony of the London Paralympic Games today, organisers said, promising a "radical show" to challenge perceptions.
Hawking, who has motor neurone disease and has been paralysed for most of his life, will make a rare public appearance to narrate segments of the ceremony, which is due to start at the Olympic Stadium in east London at 1930 GMT.
"The conversation with Stephen Hawking began towards the end of last year," co-artistic director Bradley Hemmings told a news conference.
"We have worked very closely with Professor Hawking to develop a series of messages which are now very much integrated into the storytelling of the ceremony.
"Everyone knows about Professor Hawking and his extraordinary theoretical work and extraordinary writings which have made very complex ideas about science accessible.
"What came through to us was the humanity and humour of Professor Hawking. He's a fun guy." Hawking's involvement fits into the "Enlightenment" theme of the opening ceremony, which has been co-directed by Jenny Sealey, who like Hemmings is a theatre director with a long history of working with disabled performers.
Hemmings, who is profoundly deaf and used a sign language interpreter at the news conference, said Hawking, who wrote the best-seller "A Brief History of Time", was "the most famous disabled person anywhere in the world".
The 80,000 crowd at the stadium and millions of television viewers around the world "will be taken on the most exquisite journey of discovery, inspired by the wonder of science", starting at the 18th century "Enlightenment", she added. "Stephen Hawking will speak about the origins of the universe and how humanity has tried to understand how everything is ordered and how things came to be," Hemmings added.
"(He) makes the point that even if there was a universal theory of everything, even if we understand the mechanics, what breathes life into these equations, what makes it worth understanding is humanity." The executive producer for all four Olympic and Paralympic opening and closing ceremonies, Stephen Daldry, described the Paralympic opening as "the most extraordinary piece of work".
"What we are going to get from Jenny and Bradley is something very unique and very different, much more classically driven" than Danny Boyle's opening Olympic celebration of British history and pop culture and Kim Gavin's musical closing.
"It's about challenging our perceptions in a very different way from the other ceremonies... It's a radical show," Daldry, a film director who was Oscar-nominated for the 2000 film "Billy Elliot", told reporters.