History of the Paralympic Movement

Following World War II, traditional methods of rehabilitation could not meet the medical and psychological needs of large numbers of soldiers and civilians with a disability. In 1944, at the request of the British government, Dr. Ludwig Guttmann founded the National Spinal Injuries Center at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. A strong advocate of sports therapy, Guttmann encouraged his patients to play sports under the belief that sports would enhance the quality of life for people who were injured or wounded.

On July 29, 1948, the day of the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in London, 16 injured British servicemen and women participated in an archery competition at the first Stoke Mandeville Games. Four years later, the first International Stoke Mandeville Games were held when Dutch ex-servicemen joined the movement. From then on, the International Stoke Mandeville Games were to be held annually.

In 1960, the 9th Annual International Stoke Mandeville Games saw 400 athletes from 23 countries compete in the same city as the Olympic Games for the first time in Rome, Italy. While the subsequent International Stoke Mandeville Games would be held during the Summer Olympics, it was not until 1988 that both were held in same city in the same venues. It was at these Games that “Paralympics” became the official term of use. The word “Paralympic” now represents “parallel” and “Olympic” to illustrate how the two movements exist side by side.

In 2001, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) formalized an agreement stating that the Paralympic Games would be held after the Olympics in the same city using the same venue.