Aylesbury couple recall first meeting at 1984 Paralympic Games in Stoke Mandeville

Janette and Liam were teenagers when Aylesbury hosted the games
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Previously, we told you about the remarkable circumstances that led to the local community rallying to arrange the ’last-minute Paralympics’ which took place at Stoke Mandeville in 1984.

Over the next two articles we’ll tell you about the experience of the games as seen through the eyes of two Aylesbury teenagers, Janette and Liam Redrup.

Both grew up in Aylesbury. Janette learned to swim at the stadium and her parents volunteered at the cafe in the 1980s, Janette following in their footsteps in 1983.

John Harris delivering the Paralympics Games oath in 1984 in Stoke Mandeville, ©Wheel PowerJohn Harris delivering the Paralympics Games oath in 1984 in Stoke Mandeville, ©Wheel Power
John Harris delivering the Paralympics Games oath in 1984 in Stoke Mandeville, ©Wheel Power

Liam moved to the area in 1972 and his mother became a nurse at the Spinal Injuries Unit.

Liam remembers it as a carefree, perfect summer, where every day seemed to be hot ‘without a cloud in the sky’. He cannot single out individual events but was so happy to be there, spending time with his best friend, Alan Baldwin. Just having a great time and ‘horsing about.’

Janette, like Liam, was a ‘blue-bander’, a voluntary helper a bit like the 2012 ‘Games Makers’. She loved watching the basketball, the swimming (staged at High Wycombe) and the track events at the stadium.

Liam was happy to meet the then Prince Charles, but meeting athletes from all over the world and the truly global feel had a greater impression on him. Janette agrees and is still in touch with delegates from Australia.

Janette and her sister were medal hostesses and were also present at the opening ceremony. Janette remembers the “buzz and elation” of it and “seeing all the athletes” feeling “very proud to be a part of it and that it was happening in my hometown.” She recalls how it had been announced that 1,000 peace doves were to be released at the opening ceremony, but due to the short notice in keeping with the ‘Last-minute Paralympics’ it was actually racing pigeons that were used.

Finally, Liam was working in the snack bar at the opening ceremony and remembers the GB athlete John Harris reading the athlete’s oath. Harris said: “It was a fantastic honour, only one competitor from the host team gets to do it at the opening ceremony and I was picked. I am still not quite sure why – possibly because I was Welsh and the games were opened by the Prince of Wales. Anyway, I got to do it. They gave it me on a sheet of paper and I had learnt it by heart in a couple of hours. There I was wheeling myself up to the stage to make the oath in front of the crowd and I still had the sheet of paper on my lap. I remember thinking, ‘I don’t need this’ and crumpling it up and throwing it away … I went up and delivered it wordperfect.”

The 1984 Games have a particularly personal memory for Janette and Liam as it was where they saw each other for the first time. The pair eventually married after meeting again at a fundraising disco Liam ran in 1985.

Memories like these are crucial to our understanding of the history behind the Paralympics. If you have a story to tell the National Paralympic Heritage Trust would like to hear from you. Please contact us via email or telephone: 01296 489929.