The Paralympic Torch was welcomed at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in the London Borough of Brent on the morning of Wednesday 29 August as part of a joyous community celebration.
Despite the relay running two hours behind schedule, hundreds of local residents and worshippers had gathered from as early as 6am to witness this proud moment for the borough.
The Paralympic Flame arrived in a lantern to the Mandir at around 8.25am where it was greeted by young girls and two traditional Indian drummers. They accompanied the carrier to the main steps of the Mandir as the crowd cheered and waved on.
As the flame arrived at the top, sadhus from the Mandir chanted the Shanti Paath (an ancient Hindu peace prayer) in the presence of a sacred image of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
Antony Eames then lit his torch from the flame and held it aloft to a rapturous round of cheers and applause. Antony was nominated for his courage and determination in overcoming the many challenges that he faced after being diagnosed with Long QT Syndrome (Sudden Death Syndrome).
Antony Eames was accompanied by four other torchbearers – Barrie Guy, Usman Aurakzai, Simon Schofield, and Rohit Ali.
Before Antony and his fellow relay runners jogged off with the newly-lit Paralympic Torch, the Mayor of Brent, Cllr Michael Adeyeye, and representatives from the Mandir and local community gave it a final auspicious sending off at the Mandir’s ceremonial gate.
Also present at the ceremony were members from the Asian People’s Disability Alliance and the Ashiana Charitable Trust (who support children and young people with learning disabilities), as well as local councillors Paul Lorber, Muhammed Butt and Krupa Sheth, neighbourhood leaders Karin Jaeger and Roger Macklen, Rev. Canon Ronald Herbert from the nearby St Michael’s Vicarage, and Barry Gardiner, MP for Brent North.
Mr Gardiner observed, “It was a very special moment. We have been waiting since 6.30am and the thrill and excitement is just fantastic. I don’t think there has ever been a setting like this for an Olympic or Paralympic flame.”
Sharing the MP’s enthusiasm was 15-year-old Nishta Parekh who was part of the welcoming group. She said: “The atmosphere was just incredible! I’m really happy to have taken part in this. The Olympics were a fantastic success for our country and I’m sure these Games will be too.”
Natasha from nearby Wembley also remarked that it was “amazing” to see so many diverse people at the Mandir and lauded “the wonderful community spirit” it has created.
Girish Patel, a volunteer at the Mandir as well as a Paralympic Gamesmaker and himself a former British athlete, added: “The theme of the Paralympic Torch relay is ‘Light the Way’, so we really wanted this to be a celebration where the whole community can get together and kindle the hope and aspirations so many of these inspirational athletes hold. We wish all the Paralympians the very best of luck and look forward to another amazing Olympic Games.”
From Brent, the Torch made its way through the capital to the Olympic Park in east London where it was used to light the cauldron during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.