Welcome to Stoke Mandeville, the birthplace of the Paralympic Games
Stoke Mandeville Stadium ready for the 2012 hopefulls
In 1944, Dr. Ludwig Guttmann (a German Jew who had fled Nazi Germany) arrived at the Ministry of Pensions Hospital, Stoke Mandeville to start the National Spinal Injuries Unit.
Prior to Guttmann’s work, paraplegics had a life expectancy of only two years. Guttmann introduced sport into the lives of those based at Stoke Mandeville and on July 29th 1948, the same day as the opening ceremony of the last London Olympic Games, he held an archery competition for sixteen disabled athletes. This was the start of the Stoke Mandeville Games and the Paralympic movement was born. The competition continued to be held annually, adding more sports each year. The first ‘international’ competition was in 1952 when a team from the Netherlands came to Stoke Mandeville to compete. The link with the Olympic Games was strengthened when the International Stoke Mandeville Games was held in Rome in 1960, this event is now seen as the first Paralympic Games.

In 1984 Stoke Mandeville stepped in at short notice to co-host the Paralympic Games with New York. The centre has many reminders of this unique history including the original Paralympic Torch which is located next to the bowls centre. These games are now seen as a pivotal moment in the development of the Paralympic Games with the competitions now being held in the same city as the Olympic Games every four years. From humble beginnings the movement has progressed considerably. In Beijing at the Summer Paralympic Games in 2008, there were 146 international teams consisting of almost 4000 competitors in 20 different sports and the Paralympic Games in London in 2012 is expected to attract even more athletes.