The founder of the Paralympics

Have you been watching the Paralympics? Have you ever wondered how it all got started? I found this clip about Sir Ludwig Guttmann, a Jewish doctor who fled the Nazis, and went on to found the Paralympics.

This clip is originally from the BBC Radio 5 live Hit List on Sunday 11th September 2016.

He was appointed to run the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in 1944, but as well as providing innovative treatment, he directed patients towards sporting activities including wheelchair polo, basketball and archery.

Guttmann was fully aware of the positive and psychological benefits of physical activity and once at Stoke Mandeville insisted sport became integral to the rehabilitation programme. This led to the first ever competition between disabled athletes, which coincidentally was held on the same day as the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games at Wembley. July 28, 1948 became a moment in history; the day 16 former service personnel (14 men and two women) took part in an Archery contest with a cup presented to the winning team.

From this single event with only a few participants, other disabled competitions grew, the significance of which was not lost on Guttmann.

‘Small as it was, it was a demonstration to the public that competitive sport is not the prerogative of the able-bodied’ (Goodman, Collins, 1986).

If you’d like to find out more about the founder of the Paralympics visit the History in Detail page on the Paralympics website.

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