Where the Paralympics began: Stoke Mandeville Stadium and the Paralympic Movement

By Culture24 Staff | 28 August 2012
a photo of four people in wheelchairs taking part in archery
© WheelPower

Exhibition Preview: Path to the Paralympic Games, Lady Guttmann Bowls Centre, Stoke Mandeville Stadium, Aylesbury, August 29 - September 16 2012.

When the Paralympic torch arrives at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and Stadium today ahead of its 24-hour journey to the Olympic Stadium in London, it will mark the homecoming of an event that has its roots firmly in Buckinghamshire and the pioneering work of Sir Ludwig Guttman.

A Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, Dr Guttman became Director of the new National Spinal Injury Centre at the Emergency Medical Services Hospital at Stoke Mandeville in 1944, and soon set about treating the patients under his care in his own way and with no interference.

It was an uncompromising approach, but one which was badly needed; before Guttman, soldiers with spinal injuries had a very low life expectancy, suffered from painful pressure sores and were offered little or no hope of rehabilitation.

By contrast, Guttman believed fervently in rehabilitation and sport as a major method of therapy. By 1948, his success and dogged persistence secured the first Stoke Mandeville Games, coinciding with the London Olympics of the same year.

The competition was soon attracting international competitors, and in 1960 the Stoke Mandeville Games were officially held alongside the Olympiad in Rome.

Path to the Paralympics tells this remarkable story – of Guttmann, the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and his use of sport, as well as the history of the Games through to London 2012.

Part of Buckinghamshire County Council's Mandeville Legacy project, the exhibition features photographs, film, reminiscences and memorabilia from an archive put together as part of Accentuate, a transformational programme of 15 projects inspired by the Paralympic Movement.

More pictures:

a photo of a man in a wheelchair throwing a javelin
© WheelPower
a photo of men in wheelchairs playing basketball
© WheelPower
a photo of men on a race track supervising a weight lifter who is lying on the ground
© WheelPower
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