Stoke Mandeville Stadium celebrates the 70th anniversary of the birth of the Paralympic movement

  |  Published: Jul 30th 2018

On Sunday 29 July 2018 Stoke Mandeville Stadium, wheelchair sports charity WheelPower and the National Spinal Injuries Centre celebrated the 70th anniversary of the birth of the Paralympic movement by hosting an archery competition at the Stadium and unveiling a mural to celebrate the special occasion.

The event recreated the first archery competition for 16 disabled people, the first Stoke Mandeville Games and involved [insert number] patients from the National Spinal Injuries Centre, Stoke Mandeville Hospital and other paralysed men and women.

The first sports event at Stoke Mandeville was organised by Sir Ludwig Guttmann – founder of the Paralympic Movement on 29 July 1948 to coincide with the Opening Ceremony of the 1948 London Olympic Games.  Guttmann, a neurologist who founded the National Spinal Injuries Centre in Stoke Mandeville and WheelPower, believed that sport was a method of therapy, using it to help build physical strength and self-respect for his patients.   

The Stoke Mandeville Games became an annual event, with new sports added each year with teams from around the country taking part. In 1952, ex-servicemen from The Netherlands took part in the first International Stoke Mandeville Games. 

In 1960, the International Stoke Mandeville Games took place in Rome. Four hundred athletes from twenty three countries competed in thirteen sports and this was later recognised as the first Paralympic Games.  Today, around 5000 athletes from more than 150 countries take part in over 600 events in twenty-eight sports at the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games.

Following Sunday’s archery competition, a mural celebrating 70 years of the Paralympic Movement was unveiled in the heart of the Stadium.  The mural contains a variety of images taken over the 70 years.

WheelPower Chief Executive Martin McElhatton paid tribute to Sir Ludwig Guttmann “70 years ago Sir Ludwig Guttmann changed the world for disabled people.  He was a pioneer.  He believed in the importance of sport for rehabilitation and his spark of inspiration grew and eventually became the Paralympic movement.  WheelPower is proud to celebrate the incredible heritage of Stoke Mandeville and continues Sir Ludwig’s legacy providing newly paralysed men and women with a chance to transform their lives through sport. It is wonderful a wonderful place to work and I am delighted to join everyone to celebrate today’s special anniversary of the first Stoke Mandeville Games”. 

Paul Rushton, Wheelpower

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