FAMILIES flocked to see the Paralympic torch visit Wearside.
As the countdown to the 2012 Games begins, the special flame came to Sainsbury’s at Washington Galleries.
Hazel Robson proudly posed with the Olympic torch, before flying to Portugal to start her training for the tournament.
The 32-year-old sprinter from Sunderland, who has cerebral palsy, will run in the 100 and 200 metres and has said it would be a “fairytale” to win a medal on home soil.
“It’s really exciting,” she added.
“I need to get under 15 seconds in the 100 metres and under 32 seconds in the 200m. My main rivals are the Russians.
“My events have sold out and even some of my family tried to get tickets and there were none left.”
Henry Hutchinson-Khan, aged 17 months, from Seaham, donned his Team GB T-shirt to meet Hazel and see the flame, along with his parents Ezar, 37, and Nina, 33.
Ezar, who teaches at Oxclose School in Washington, has already been to the Olympics and is travelling down to the Paralympics.
“I went last week and saw the hockey,” he said. “I’m going to see the swimming and athletics at the Paralympics.
“I wasn’t really into sport, but it was great.
“People got into it a lot more than I thought they would.”
Sainsbury’s is the sole sponsor of the games, which run until September 9.
Washington store manager Malcolm Mitchell said: “I think it’s great that everyone has turned up for the occasion, and I just want to thank everyone for their help and support.
“I think everybody has enjoyed themselves and that’s what it is about.”
The Paralympic Flame was welcomed by Mayor and Mayoress of Sunderland, Councillors Iain Kay and Barbara McClennan.
Coun Kay said: “I don’t think there’s any doubt the Olympics has been a resounding success for the country.
“Everyone was impressed with the Olympians themselves; their humility and how down to earth they were.”
The Paralympic Torch is making a special tour of the UK, ahead of the Paralympic Games’ opening ceremony on August 29.
Some 620 torches will be used in the 24-hour relay, which goes from Stoke Mandeville in Aylesbury, the home of the Paralympic Movement, to the Olympic Park in Stratford, London, for the start of the Games.
The tour includes a special flame celebration event at Beamish Museum on August 24, when visitors will be able to try a variety of disability sports.
A record 2.1million tickets have already been sold for the Paralympics, out of 2.5million put on sale.
Prices start at £10 or £5 for young people and pensioners.
See www.tickets.london2012.com and www.london2012.com/paralympics for more information.