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

An archery competition was held at Stoke Mandeville Stadium to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Paralympic sport in the area

WheelPower and the National Spinal Injuries Centre hosted an event at Stoke Mandeville Stadium yesterday (Sunday) to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the birth of the Paralympic movement.

The main feature of the celebration event was an archery competition at the stadium followed by the unveiling of a mural to celebrate the special occasion.

A ribbon cutting was held to mark the unveiling of a mural to celebrate 70 years of Paralympic sport at Stoke Mandeville Stadium

The event was held to recreate the first archery competition for 16 disabled people, the first Stoke Mandeville Games and involved 14 patients from the National Spinal Injuries Centre based at Stoke Mandeville Hospital as well as other paralysed men and women.

The first sports event at Stoke Mandeville was organised by Sir Ludwig Guttmann on July 29 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.

An archery competition was held to mark the 70th anniversary of Paralympic sport at Stoke Mandeville Stadium

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, Italy, with 400 athletes from 23 countries involved across 13 sports in an event that was later recognised as the first Paralympic Games.

Today, around 5000 athletes from more than 150 countries take part in more than 600 events across 28 sports at the summer and winter Paralympic Games.

Following Sunday’s archery competition, a mural to celebrate 70 years of the Paralympic movement was unveiled in the heart of the stadium.

The mural contains a variety of images taken across 70 years of Paralympic sport at the stadium.

WheelPower chief executive Martin McElhatton said: "70 years ago Sir Ludwig Guttmann changed the world for disabled people. He was a pioneer who 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 a wonderful place to work and I am delighted to join everyone to celebrate today’s special anniversary of the first Stoke Mandeville Games."

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