By Tom Degun at the Main Press Centre on the Olympic Park in London

paralympic opening_ceremony_30-08-121August 30 - A peak audience of 11.2 million watched last night's Channel 4 coverage of the London 2012 Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony – the biggest Channel 4 audience in over 10 years.

The Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, which was directed by Jenny Sealey and Bradley Hemmings, has received rave reviews after it featured spectacular music, dance and firework displays alongside a rare public appearance from internationally acclaimed and celebrated British scientist Professor Stephen Hawking.

The figures even beat the number of viewers for the final episode of Friends broadcast on Channel 4.

The average Channel 4 audience across the four and a quarter hour show was 7.6 million, 40 per cent share of the television audience, making it the most watched Paralympic Opening Ceremony in United Kingdom television history.

This compares to a peak audience of 2.8 million for the Beijing 2008 Paralympics Opening Ceremony when it was shown by the BBC.

"Last night's Opening Ceremony was a spectacular start to the London 2012 Paralympic Games and I'm delighted that so many viewers enjoyed it with us," said Channel 4's chief creative officer Jay Hunt.

"It kicks off eleven days of great sporting coverage on Channel 4."

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Channel 4 secured the rights to broadcast the London 2012 Paralympics back in January 2010 in a £5 million ($7.9 million/€6 million) deal that saw that has provided the Paralympic Games with the strongest pre-Games and Games broadcast coverage and marketing support it has ever received in the UK.

It will be hoping to build on the impressive Opening Ceremony viewing figures over the next two weeks of Paralympic action, although there have been some critics of the coverage last night due to the commercial breaks.

"Loving the spectacle of the Paralympics but it sits a bit awkwardly with the ads," said Phillip Schofield, the presenter of ITV's This Morning, on Twitter.

Other high profile names also took to Twitter to criticise, including the BBC news presenter Jane Hill.

"If this number of ads is driving us all mad, think how Americans must have felt watching the Olympics on NBC #Paralympics," she said.

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