Prince Harry to see Paralympics swimming

Britain's Prince Harry’s first public appearance since naked photos of him made headlines around the world will be at the Paralympics, it was announced tonight.

Prince Harry to see Paralympics swimming

Britain's Prince Harry’s first public appearance since naked photos of him made headlines around the world will be at the Paralympics, it was announced tonight.

The prince will watch swimmers in the aquatic centre on Monday and later that day chat to sportsmen and women in the official meeting place for the country’s competitors: ParalympicsGB House.

The prince was engulfed in a media storm when pictures of him frolicking in the nude with an unnamed naked woman during a Las Vegas holiday emerged on a celebrity gossip website last week.

It was also announced that the Queen of England and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will attend tomorrow’s opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium.

With huge demand for tickets the Paralympics are, like the Olympics, expected to be one of the most successful Games ever.

Today, as torchbearers prepared to take the flame on a 24-hour relay to the Olympic Park, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the Paralympics will change attitudes towards disability around the world.

More than 2.4 million tickets have been sold already, half a million of those to overseas visitors. Ten thousand tickets will be available each day during the event and the Games are on course to be the first Paralympics to sell out.

London 2012 chief executive Paul Deighton said: “We’ve tried to get as many people in as we reasonably can. This is a wonderful illustration of how the British public have said we love the Paralympics and want to be part of it.”

Some 800 of the tickets to tomorrow’s sold-out show were given away to troops and police.

Paralympic organisers confirmed that G4S will provide the majority of security for venues.

The number of military personnel is drastically scaled back from the 12,200 troops involved in venue security during the Olympics. Police numbers will also be halved, with around 7,000 officers on Paralympic duty across the country, compared with 14,500 previously.

Mr Deighton said G4S, which is facing a loss of £50 million over its failure to provide enough staff for the Olympics, will use 4,000 to 5,000 workers.

“We’re fully confident. The military contingent this time will be 3,500 soldiers, with 1,000 in reserve and typically G4S will be between four and 5,000,” he said.

“In very simple terms, we’re switching from an approach which had a slight majority of military during the Games to one which will have a slight majority of private sector security for the Paralympics.”

More than 3,000 adult volunteers are taking part in the opening ceremony, along with around 100 children and a professional cast of 100. Some of the performers have completed a circus skills training programme to prepare for the performance which will feature a high-wire act.

Many details of the show have been kept under wraps but Bradley Hemmings, who has been responsible for its organisation, alongside fellow artistic director Jenny Sealey, promised it will be “both spectacular and deeply human”.

The ceremony, signalling the start of 11 days of competition by nearly 4,300 athletes from 166 countries, has been given the theme and title Enlightenment and features deaf artists and those with other disabilities.

It will begin with a flypast by Aerobility, a charity that trains disabled people to become pilots. The cast also includes past Paralympians and injured soldiers.

Before the start of the ceremony, the Paralympic torch relay will have brought the flame to the Olympic Park in east London from Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire where the Paralympic movement began in 1948.

The relay, featuring 580 torchbearers in teams of five, is a 90-mile journey which is being undertaken overnight.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “For many Brits this will be the first time they have seen the Paralympic Games at all. It will be a very big moment to really change perceptions and that will be something to be proud of.”

Meanwhile, Tube bosses said they are doing their best to make the capital’s “ancient” underground system as wheelchair-accessible as possible.

Millions have been spent to make Green Park and Kings Cross wheelchair-friendly interchanges for the Games, but still the majority of stations in Zone One are inaccessible to people who use wheelchairs.

Transport for London boss Peter Hendy said: “We’re doing our best to make our ancient metro system – the oldest metro system in the world – as accessible as we can make it.”

The first Paralympic Games were held in 1960. Stoke Mandeville co-hosted the Games with New York in 1984, when they took over the running of the wheelchair events because Illinois pulled out at the last minute; 2012 marks the first time the whole Paralympics has been staged in the UK.

Paralympic athletes will compete for 503 gold medals across 20 sports during the London Games, with competitions starting on Thursday.

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