The London 2012 Paralympic Games are under way following a spectacular opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium.
The dazzling extravaganza, watched by a capacity 90,000-strong crowd which included The Queen, Prince William and Prime Minister David Cameron, kicked off with a speech by renowned physicist Professor Stephen Hawking.
The three-and-a-half-hour ceremony also featured a flypast from Aerobility - a charity that trains disabled pilots - 'flying' wheelchairs, a 430-strong choir and a giant Newton's apple.
The theme of the night centred around the character of Miranda - played by an actress in a wheelchair - from Shakespeare's play The Tempest.
Look up at the stars, and not down at your feet - Professor Stephen Hawking
In a rare public appearance, Professor Hawking, who has motor neurone disease, was in the Stadium ahead of a 'Big Bang' to act as Miranda's guide.
The author of A Brief History of Time gave a thought-provoking address in which he urged the watching masses to: "Look up at the stars, and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious."
Actor Sir Ian McKellen also made an emotive speech in which he made reference to "the beautiful diversity of humanity" but the biggest cheer was reserved for the Queen when she was introduced to the crowd alongside Prince Edward and Sir Philip Craven - President of the International Paralympic Committee.
Be prepared to be dazzled, be prepared to be moved - Lord Sebastian Coe
Elsewhere hundreds of disabled and able-bodied dancers took part in a stunning routine with umbrellas to Rhianna's song of the same name, although thankfully the brollies were not needed as the rain that had cascaded across the capital earlier in the day subsided just in time for proceedings to begin.
Athletes from the 164 participating countries then entered the stadium, with the ParalympicsGB team coming in last to a cacophony of noise.
There followed a hush, punctuated by raucous cheers, as Lord Coe "welcomed home" the Paralympic Games, declaring: "Sport refuses to take no for an answer...be prepared to be dazzled, be prepared to be moved."
The Queen then officially declared the Games open to a spectacular backdrop of fireworks before the ceremony concluded with an aerial wheelchair ballet from six Paralympians - including Dame Tanni-Grey Thompson - and a nod to Sir Isaac Newton which saw every member of the audience take a bite of an apple.
Fittingly, Professor Hawking had the final word as he paid tribute to the athletes, saying: "The Paralympic Games is about transforming our perception of the world. We are all different, there is no such thing as a standard or run-of-the-mill human being, but we share the same human spirit.
"The Games provide an opportunity for athletes to excel, to stretch themselves and become outstanding in their field. So let us together celebrate excellence, friendship, and respect. Good luck to you all."
Royal Marine Joe Townsend, who lost his legs after standing on a landmine in Afghanistan, then brought the torch down on a zipwire from the Orbit Tower, before it was passed to Britain's first ever Paralympics gold medallist Margaret Maughan, as the fireworks returned to light up the London skies.