The opening ceremonies began at Olympic Stadium with the arrival of the torch on Wednesday. Queen Elizabeth II, other members of the royal family and renowned physicist Stephan Hawking took part in the event.
It was a night of empowerment for the disabled worldwide, and "enlightenment" was the theme. As the athletes paraded in under a full moon, a huge roar filled the stadium for South African flagbearer Oscar Pistorius, the sprinter who is making history by running in both the Olympics and the Paralympics this year.
Hawking welcomed 4,200 athletes from more than 160 nations. Over the next 11 days, Paralympic athletes will compete in 20 sports, including archery, cycling, rowing, equestrian, sailing, sitting volleyball, wheelchair rugby, wheelchair tennis and wheelchair basketball.
The London event is on track to be the most-watched Paralympics ever, with more than 2 million tickets expected to be sold by the time the games end on Sept. 9.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.