City to host flame ceremony ahead of Paralympic Games

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A SPECTACULAR lantern procession and a performance from former X Factor winner Joe McElderry will be among the highlights of the Paralympic Games celebrations in the Capital.

Edinburgh will host the Scottish flame and torch relay celebrations tomorrow, with the climax of the event being a 200-strong lantern procession accompanying eight torchbearers as they carry the flame into Meadowbank Sports Centre and light the ceremonial 
cauldron on stage.

Among the torchbearers will be 15-year-old Alexandra Blunt, who lives in Liberton, and was diagnosed with hearing problems at the age of three.

Despite other health setbacks, including asthma, she competes in regional climbing competitions and has recently started judo.

Alexandra joined the Youth Advisory Board of the National Deaf Children’s Society – one of 12 children UK-wide and one of only two in Scotland – last year.

The James Gillespie’s fifth year pupil said: “I’m excited and a bit nervous at the same time – it’s quite a big thing.”

Lynne Sturgeon, 40, who lives in Penicuik, Midlothian, will also carry the Scottish flame at tomorrow night’s celebration at Meadowbank.

Lynne has run Allstars Disability Sports Club and worked as a swimming coach at Loanhead Dolphins, both of which feed into Special Olympics and Paralympics, for the last seven years. She dedicates many weekends and extra hours of her own time to support the athletes at competitions.

Meanwhile, Mark Cooper, who lives in Gracemount, is also due to carry the flame in Watford, England, as part of a five-strong team during the 24-hour relay on Wednesday.

The 27-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, is an active disability rights ambassador, campaigner and fundraiser, and previously raised funds for Capability Scotland by climbing to the top of Ben Nevis in his wheelchair.

He said: “I am really excited because I love sport – I’m just thrilled to be taking part and I’m thankful that the Bank of Scotland chose me to take part.”

The torchbearers were selected for the role through the Bank of Scotland’s nomination programme.

The day of celebrations will get under way at 8am tomorrow when the Scottish flame lights the ceremonial cauldron on The Mound. Then the flame will visit Bank of Scotland HQ, the Royal Hospital for Sick Children and St Crispin’s School.

A Paralympic sports event will take place at Meadowbank Sports Centre between 10am and 1pm, featuring football, wheelchair tennis, wheelchair basketball, badminton, judo, athletics, trampolining and fencing. There will also be a chance to meet some of Scotland’s Paralympic athletes.

The Flame Festival will get under way at the dry play area of Meadowbank Sports Centre at 6pm, with performances from former X Factor and Pop Star To Opera Star winner Joe McElderry, Samba band Pulse of the Place and Sing in the City.

The city’s festivals and events champion, councillor Steve Cardownie, said: “It’s great for Edinburgh that we’ll have the honour of staging a Flame Festival as the country builds up to the Paralympic Games, especially as the city will still be buzzing with the festivals season.”

Free tickets for the event are available at www.edinburgh.gov.uk/paralympicflamefestival