Ipswich/London: Heroic delivery driver plays his part in launch of Paralympic Games

IT was a proud moment for the town’s Paralympic torchbearer Alan Richardson, as thousands of people converged on the capital for the highly-anticipated opening ceremony.

Mr Richardson, of Shakespeare Road, took part in the torch relay as the Paralympic flame made its way through the capital, having come from Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury.

The 40-year-old delivery driver was nominated to carry the torch by his employers Sainsbury’s after helping to save the life of a stroke victim by going beyond his duties.

The torch relay finished ahead of last night’s event which officially opened the Paralympic Games.

The dramatic and moving ceremony included starring roles for the Queen and Professor Stephen Hawking.

A packed Olympic Stadium and millions more across the world watched as the “spectacular and deeply human” opening ceremony unfolded before double amputee Afghan war veteran Joe Townsend flew in on a zip wire to light the flame. Six Paralympians and former competitors – including Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson – were flown into the stadium in gold wheelchairs before the Queen made her entrance into the stadium.

Apples, professor Stephen Hawking and Sir Ian McKellen were all at the centre of the show entitled The Enlightenment, which focused on humanity and science and used Hawking’s work on A Brief History of Time for inspiration.

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The Games will see 4,280 athletes from 166 nations compete across 20 sports for 503 gold medals across 11 days of competition.

The 60,000-strong crowd were also urged to be part of the world’s largest “apple crunch” and take a bite out of an apple all at the same time.

The showpiece closed with Beverley Knight signing I Am What I Am with observers being encouraged to sign and sing along with the music.

Mr Richardson, who works at the Warren Heath store, was nominated for his quick-thinking actions in October 2011 when he went to drop off 85-year-old Ivan Woodcock’s groceries.

He knew something was wrong when he noticed milk bottles were still on the doorstep of the Witnesham house.

After getting a key from Mr Woodcock’s neighbour he forced his way in, only to find the 85-year-old in bed having suffered a suspected stroke and alerted emergency services.

Mr Richardson said: “I feel honoured and full of pride. It’s a massive buzz and being part of it is a once in a lifetime experience.

“I only did what I had to do to help Ivan, at the time I didn’t think anything of it because you go into autopilot and do what’s needed in that situation.”

Mr Richardson had the honour of carrying the torch twice – once through Parliament last week and again through part of London yesterday.