Tuesday 27 September 2016

Games follow script written by visionary Dr Guttman

Matt Gatward

Published 07/09/2016 | 02:30

Stoke Mandeville Hospital was home to the first Paralympic Games created by Doctor Ludwig Guttman for patients with spinal injuries - the majority of whom had been hurt during the Second World War - as a means of helping their recovery.
Stoke Mandeville Hospital was home to the first Paralympic Games created by Doctor Ludwig Guttman for patients with spinal injuries - the majority of whom had been hurt during the Second World War - as a means of helping their recovery.

From small acorns and all that…The latest instalment of the Paralympics rolls round to Rio today with over 4,000 athletes, a multitude of coaches and the world's media looking on but it all began in July 1948 in the private grounds of a hospital in a small town just east of Oxford.

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Stoke Mandeville Hospital was home to the first Paralympic Games created by Doctor Ludwig Guttman for patients with spinal injuries - the majority of whom had been hurt during the Second World War - as a means of helping their recovery. The idea was to give the injured a goal, a reason to recover, a boost to their self-esteem.

It took until 1960 for the first Paralympic Games to take place when they followed hot on the heels of the Rome Olympics and used the same venues. Rather than the 4,000 athletes who will be in Rio over the coming three weeks, in Italy it was just the 400.

Determination

But it was a start and it was Guttman's determination that made it happen. Great Britain won 120 medals in London - Jonnie Peacock, David Weir, Ellie Simmonds et al becoming household names in the UK - but it was Margaret Maughan who got the ball rolling (or the arrow flying) when she won Team GB's first gold in archery.

The early Games were for wheelchair-bound athletes only but in 1972 quadriplegic and visually impaired athletes were allowed to compete as the event began to grow. The Games struggled in the 1980s as Moscow refused to stage them in 1980 - Holland stepping in - then in 1984 Stoke Mandeville played host with New York due to funding issues in America.

But it may have been 1992 when the Games truly sprang to life as Barcelona embraced the event like no other before. London 2012 continued the fun. Now for Rio and the biggest Games yet. (© Independent News Service)

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