Paralympics 2012 off to a big bang

London was lit by spectacular fireworks once again as the capital city welcomed the start of the Paralympic Games.

Professor Stephen Hawking, who has motor neurone disease, took spectators on a journey of discovery, focusing on themes of human possibility and empowerment.

The show, which was named Enlightenment, featured deaf and disabled children, artists, performers and athletes, a recital from The Tempest by Sir Ian McKellen, as well as the worlds largest 'apple crunch'.

An umbrella theme rang throughout the ceremony and brightly dressed diasbled dancers descended into the stadium to the sound of Rhianna's hit Umbrella 

A choreographed 'Big Bang' then resounded around the stadium, prompting the festivities to begin 

Continuing the umbrella theme, there was a creative nod to Britain's maritime history 

A 43ft-tall replica of Marc Quinn's famous marble sculpture of disabled artist Alison Lapper while she was heavily pregnant was unveiled 

In a tribute to Sir Isaac Newton, giant apples filled the stadium before some audience participation kicked in. The ecstatic crowd bit down on 62,000 Royal Gala apples to create the world's largest 'apple crunch' 

Professor Stephen Hawking, 70, launched the show in his distinctive computerised voice, saying: "Ever since the dawn of civilisation, people have craved an understanding of the underlying order of the world, why it is as it is and why it exists at all." 

Team Paralympic GB, led by wheelchair tennis player Peter Norfolk, were greeted by an rapturous reception from the crowd 

Royals and other high-profile leaders clapped and cheered as the Games got underway 

The cauldron's flaming petals rose to create the Paralympic flame just as they did during the Olympic opening ceremony 

Lighting and colouring the sky, the spectacular fireworks dazzled the 62,000 strong stadium audience 

Disabled actress Nicola Miles-Wildin made a spectacular appearance performing alongside Ian McKellan to millions as Miranda from The Tempest