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Preparing for the 2012 Paralympics

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The 2012 Summer Paralympic Games begin tonight in London with Queen Elizabeth II officially opening the Games at the Opening Ceremony in London. An estimated 4,200 athletes representing 167 countries are expected to compete in the Games, designed for athletes with physical disabilities. They will compete in 20 sports, ranging from cycling, powerlifting, and judo, to wheelchair rugby and goalball. In the UK, Channel 4 is inviting viewers to "Meet the Superhumans," and it plans to broadcast 150 hours of Paralympic programming between now and the Closing Ceremony on September 9. Viewers online can also watch hundreds of hours of live video from the International Paralympic Committee at paralympic.org. Gathered here are images of the athletes and organizers as they ready themselves for the 2012 Summer Paralympics -- more coverage to come as the Games progress. [40 photos]

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Swimmer Christoph Burkard from Germany leaves the swimming pool after his training session at the Aquatic Center ahead of the 2012 Paralympics in London, on August 28, 2012. The opening ceremony for the Paralympic Games will be held at London's Olympic Park on Wednesday, August 29. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Swimmer Christoph Burkard from Germany leaves the swimming pool after his training session at the Aquatic Center ahead of the 2012 Paralympics in London, on August 28, 2012. The opening ceremony for the Paralympic Games will be held at London's Olympic Park on Wednesday, August 29. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
The symbol for the Paralympic Games, Agitos, hangs from Tower Bridge in London, on August 26, 2012. The symbol is made up of three crescent shaped "agitos". Agito ("I move" in Latin) is a symbol of movement in the shape of an asymmetrical crescent. (AP Photo/Sebastian Widmann) #
Paralympic cyclist Greta Neimanas poses for a portrait at the 2012 Team USA Media Summit in Dallas, Texas, on May 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Victoria Will) #
Claire Lomas lights a Paralympic flame cauldron in Trafalgar Square in London, on August 24, 2012. Claire had a horse riding accident in 2007 leaving her paralyzed from the chest down. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) #
Willy Martinez, 27, a member of the Venezuelan Paralympics team, lifts weights during training in Caracas, on April 24, 2012. Martinez was a high-ranked Venezuelan boxer at the age of 18 when an enraged relative cut off his hand with a machete. Now he is training to qualify as a sprinter for the London Paralympics. (Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins) #
Members of the British Paralympic Fencing Team, from left, David Heaton, Craig McCann and Simon Wilson, during a photoshoot on August 19, 2012 in Nottingham, England. (Jan Kruger/Getty Images for Beazley's) #
Paralympian Sally Haynes (front) carries the torch with other former Paralympians along the athletics track following the torch relay ceremony at Stoke Mandeville Stadium in Buckinghamshire, on August 28, 2012. (Reuters/Olivia Harris) #
Rower Oksana Masters and her rowing partner Rob Jones from United States carry their oars after a training session ahead of the 2012 Paralympics Olympics in Eton Dorney, near Windsor, England, on August 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti) #
Britain's wheelchair basketball players, Sarah Grady, Judith Hamer, Helen Turner and Louise Sugden practice shooting baskets under the dome in St Paul's Cathedral in London, on August 24, 2012 ahead of the start of the London 2012 Paralympic Games (Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images) #
The Edinburgh Paralympic Games cauldron is lit by Martin Dougan at the Meadowbank stadium, in Edinburgh, as part of the Paralympic Torch Relay on August 26, 2012. (AP Photo/David Cheskin/LOCOG) #
Swimmer Elizabeth Stone from the United States leaves the swimming pool after training at the Aquatic Center ahead of the 2012 Paralympics Olympics in London, on August 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti) #
Phillipa Gray and Laura Thompson, during a New Zealand Paralympic Track Cycling Team Portrait Session in Invercargill, New Zealand, on June 8, 2012. (Hannah Johnston/Getty Images) #
Brazilian quadriplegic paralympic swimmer Ronystony Cordeiro, who was involved in an accident with his bicycle in 2004, prepares to swim during a training session at Banespa indoor swimming pool in Sao Paulo, on August 3, 2012. (Reuters/Nacho Doce) #
Members of the Team GB Paralympics are welcomed by dancers during a welcome ceremony at the Paralympic Village in London, on August 28, 2012. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images) #
U.S. Army Sgt. Josh Olson, on the shooting range after practice at Fort Benning, Georgia, on May 30, 2012. Olson was on a routine patrol in Tal Afar, Iraq, when a grenade that was lobbed at his Humvee exploded. He lost his right leg in the attack, and would end up spending 18 months at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. It was during that time that he took a trip to a shooting range, and impressed officials from the U.S. Army with his marksmanship, becoming the first athlete with a physical disability to be nominated to the Army's World Class Athlete Program. Now, Olson is setting his sights on a gold medal at the Paralympic Games in London. (AP Photo/David Goldman) #
Pascale Bercovitch drinks as she rests on her hand bike at the end of a training session in a park in Tel Aviv, Israel, on May 14, 2012. Bercovitch, 44, who lost her legs in a train accident in France in 1984, will represent Israel at the London Paralympics in hand cycling events. (Reuters/Nir Elias) #
Salvadorean paralympic wheelchair racer Luis Morales shows his tattered gloves after a training session at the Nacional Magico Gonzalez stadium in San Salvador, on July 5, 2012. Morales will compete in the 100 meter road cycling event at the Summer Paralympic Games in London. (Reuters/Ulises Rodriguez) #
Tom Aggar, Britain's reigning world champion, during an adaptive rowing training session on Redgrave-Pinsent Lake, ahead of the London 2012 Paralympics, on February 29, 2012 in Caversham, England. (Phil Cole/Getty Images) #
Marc McGarel, one of the flame ambassadors, from Ballymoney, Co Antrim, Northern Ireland, at the Belfast Cauldron lighting ceremony, in Belfast, on August 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Faith/LOCOG) #
People watch a fireworks display after a Paralympic cauldron was lit outside Northern Ireland's parliament in Belfast, on August 25, 2012. (Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty Images) #
Cambodian wheelchair racers gather for a training session along a street in Phnom Penh, on August 15, 2012. Cambodia has the world's highest percentage of amputees yet it is sending just one athlete to the Paralympics, an event critics say increasingly favors nations that can afford the latest high tech gear. (Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Images) #
Brazilian Paralympic athlete Vanderson Silva lifts a weight during his training for the 2012 London Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, on August 3, 2012. Silva, a discus thrower, lost his left leg after a train accident 14 years ago. (Reuters/Pilar Olivares) #
Spanish paralympians arrive at Heathrow Airport in London, England, on August 22, 2012. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images) #
Artistic Directors of the London 2012 Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony, Bradley Hemmings and Jenny Sealey attend a circus skills workshop on May 2, 2012 in London, England. 60 specialist performers in the Paralympic Opening Ceremony have been given the opportunity to be involved in an eight week training program taking place at Circus Space in Hackney, London. (Dave Tully/LOCOG via Getty Images) #
Irene Suarez, 24, a blind runner, and her guide Richard Torrealba, practice during a training session as part of her Paralympic training route in Caracas, on March 13, 2012. Suarez is part of Venezuela's Paralympic team since 2007. She is ranked first at national level and is heading to her second Paralympic competition. (Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins) #
Paralympic athletes perform a sitting volleyball demonstration during the Team USA Road to London 100 Days Out Celebration in Times Square in New York City, on April 18, 2012. (Chris Trotman/Getty Images for USOC) #
Swimmers train in the Aquatic Center ahead of the 2012 Paralympics Olympics, on August 28, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) #
The Paralympic Torch is lit at the top of Mount Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales, after groups of disabled and non-disabled Scouts from Gwynedd Scouts, used the traditional technique of rubbing flint together to create the flame, on August 22, 2012. (AP Photo/Ben Birchall/LOCOG,) #
Torch bearers carry the Paralympic flame across the Abbey Road pedestrian crossing, near the former recording studio of The Beatles, in London, on August 29, 2012. (Reuters/Luke MacGregor) #
Athlete Heinrich Popow poses in Mainz, Germany, on on April 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Mario Vedder) #
Wheelchairs sit idle as sailing Paralympic athletes Bruno Landgraf and Elaine Cunha train in Guarapiranga lake in Sao Paulo, on August 10, 2012. Landgraf and Cunha will compete for Brazil in the Skud 18 sailing class in the 2012 London Paralympic Games. (Reuters/Paulo Whitaker) #
Paralympic archer Matt Stutzman uses his feet to hold and aim his bow while demonstrating his archery technique in New York, on June 13, 2012. Stutzman, who was born without arms, will be representing the U.S. in the upcoming 2012 Paralympic Games in London. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson) #
The Paralympic Games cauldron is lit on the Mound in Edinburgh with the Paralympic Agitos symbol in the background during the Paralympic Torch Relay on August 26, 2012 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (LOCOG via Getty Images) #
Thin Seng Hon (left) runs during a training session at the national Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on August 14, 2012. Thin Seng Hon, who was born without a fully formed right leg, will be Cambodia's sole representative in London, when she competes in the 100m and 200m sprints in the below-the-knee amputee category. (Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Images) #
Belgian wheelchair sprinter Marieke Vervoort and dog Zenn arrive on Eurostar at London St. Pancras in London, on August 26, 2012. (Mark Allan/AP Images for Eurostar) #
Disabled athletes Mustafa Muhammed (right) and Rana Alawi practice archery as they train for the Paralympic team at the Al Thura Sports Handicapped Club located in the Al Thura Disabled Veteran's Community on December 11, 2011 in Baghdad, Iraq. Muhammed was wounded and lost part of his leg in a 2007 American mortar attack which killed his wife and three children. Alawi has been disabled since the age of seven when she received an improper injection. (Mario Tama/Getty Images) #
Moran Samuel, a member of Israel's Paralympic team, attends a training session in Tel Aviv on August 14, 2012. With a record of more than 300 Paralympic medals, 113 of them gold, Israel is hoping that the upcoming London Games will help erase the memory of a lacklustre performance in the Olympics. (David Buimovitch/AFP/Getty Images) #
Japanese disabled sprinter Maya Nakanishi poses in this handout picture featured in her calendar in Tokyo, on February 7, 2012. Nakanishi, who will compete in the 2012 London Paralympic Games, published a calendar featuring her posing semi-nude with her prosthetic leg to help fund her training and trip to the Games. Nakanishi lost her right leg below the knee in a workplace accident when she was 21, then became a sprinter with her prosthetic limb. She is the Asian record holder in the T44 (one leg amputated below the knee) 200 meter and long jump and she was the first Japanese woman to be at the start line in a 100 meter final race in the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Olympics. But with little financial assistance, she made up her mind to pose herself partially nude in her calendar to fund her trip to compete in London. (Reuters/Ochitakao) #
Rosie Smith lights a cauldron with the Scottish Paralympic Flame at the lighting ceremony during the Paralympic Torch Relay in Edinburgh, Scotland, on August 26, 2012. (LOCOG via Getty Images) #
A swimmer warms up in the Aquatic Center during a swimming training session ahead of the 2012 Paralympics in London, on August 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis) #

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