When the Paralypmic Games open next week it will be something of a homecoming because it was here in the UK that its foundations were laid in 1948.
A doctor at the world-renowned spinal injuries hospital, Stoke Mandeville, was at the heart of its humble beginnings.
Dr Ludwig Guttman organised the first competition for wheelchair athletes, named the Stoke Mandeville Games, to coincide with the Opening Ceremony of the London 1948 Olympic Games.
ITV News Correspondent Lewis Vaughan Jones reports:
For the original Stoke Mandeville Games, 16 injured servicemen and women took part and all competed in Archery.
In 1952, Dutch ex-servicemen joined the movement and the International Stoke Mandeville Games were founded.
These Games later became the Paralympic Games which first took place in Rome, Italy in 1960 featuring 400 athletes from 23 countries. Since then they have taken place every four years.
Only athletes who used wheelchairs were allowed to take part in the Games until 1976, and many athletes competed in more than one discipline.
Historical facts about the Paralympic Games:
- The word “Paralympic” derives from the Greek word “para”, meaning beside or alongside, and the word “Olympic”.
- 5,000 spectators watched the first Paralympic Games in Rome compared with up to 80,000 in London this summer.
- Örnsköldsvik in Sweden staged the first Paralympic Winter Games in 1976. The Winter Games are now the second-biggest sporting event in the world.
Source: International Paralympic Committee
Lewis Vaughan Jones met two of Britain's original Paralympians - Sally Haynes MBE and Margaret Maughan. Both took part in the 1960 Rome Paralympic Games:
Sally Haynes MBE facts:
- Competed in four Paralympic Games winning a total of five medals in table tennis and fencing.
- Competed in the 1960 Paralympic Games in archery, table tennis and javelin.
- Treated at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in the 1950s after becoming paralysed in a riding accident.
She remembers having to get back home before she could break the news of her victories to her friends and family since there was no television coverage:
Margaret Maughan facts:
- Britain's first gold medallist at the Paralympic Games.
- Will take part in the Stoke Mandeville leg of the Paralympic Torch Relay on Tuesday.
- Remembers having to be loaded onto the plane in Rome by a forklift truck because there were no ramps.
- Says she chose archery because she was a "bit clumsy" and not good at other sports.
She told ITV News that she was amazed by the scale of the Paralympic Games and proud to have "got it started".
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