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  1. ITV Report

French Paralympians arrive by train

A total of 200 athletes from the French Paralympic squad arrived at St Pancras international railway station ahead of Wednesday's opening ceremony.

A specially-modified Eurostar train allowed almost the entire team to travel together for the first time.

The athletes were greeted by a performance from the Kaos Signing Choir for Deaf and Hearing Children, who previously performed in the Olympic opening ceremony.

But there was still a competitive spirit on show as French athletes revealed their hopes of beating the British Paralympic team in the medal table.

I hope we're going to get more medals than Great Britain.

But I know you are really tough, so we're going to see. Good luck to you and good luck to us too."

– Arnaud Assoumani, French long jumper

British Paralympic gold medallist Danny Crates was at the station platform to welcome the arriving French athletes.

The 800m world record holder predicted ParalympicsGB would finish ahead of France in the medal table, having achieved second place in the last three Paralympic Games.

The French team are just across the water us. They're one of our biggest rivals in many sports.

For the British, we like to be unbiased sometimes, so we'll wish the French well. But hopefully it's just well, and not really well."

– Moez El Assine, a member of the French fencing team
French Paralympic team in London Credit: PA

Two Eurostar trains underwent a series of modifications to allow the French Paralympians to travel to the Games as one team for the first time.

It meant 18 athletes in wheelchairs as well as scores of other athletes, many with special travel needs, could arrive to London together.

The Belgian Paralympic team will arrive by Eurostar tomorrow. After the Games have closed, both teams will begin their homecoming journeys from St Pancras international on September 10.

We are extremely proud to be able to carry the French and Belgian Paralympic teams to the London 2012 Paralympic Games this summer.

Working closely with the Paralympic committees in both countries, we appreciate how important it is for the individual Paralympians to travel together as one team.

Every area of our business has played a part turning this project into reality and we are now looking forward to cheering on the teams we have welcomed today."

– Mary Walsh, Eurostar director of communications

The Paralympics could see a repeat of the Olympic rivalry between Britain and France, which was on show from the political leaders of both countries.

David Cameron was forced to suffer a ribbing by French president Francois Hollande about the relative performances of their two countries in the first few days of the Games.

Mr Hollande jokingly thanked Britain for "rolling out the red carpet" for French athletes to win medals - after joining the Prime Minister to watch his country play handball.

But the tables were dramatically turned by the end of the Games, with France finishing seventh in the medal table - with 34 medals including 11 golds - while Britain achieved third place with 65 medals including 29 golds.