Stoke Mandeville 1948 -1959
Despite the fact that the Stoke Mandeville Games, which went on to become the Paralympic Games, were founded at Stoke Mandeville Hospital near Aylesbury in the UK a Great Britain team did not actually compete in the Games until 1958 – ten years after the Games first began. Prior to that British interests were represented by athletes from the various spinal units from around the country. Great Britain were actually only the 26th National team to compete in the Games!
Mather-Brown (2002) and several members of the Australian team from Rome in a video commemorating the Rome Games made by the Australian Paralympic Committee (2010) claim the some of the officiating by the Italian officials in Rome was rather biased, particularly in fencing and basketball. As an example of this they claim that in basketball if their chair hit an Italian player’s chair they were accused of ‘charging’, but if an Italian player’s chair hit theirs they were accused of ‘blocking’.
The Games organizers actually had three names for the Games. These were:
- The International Stoke Mandeville Games (Dr Guttmann’s preferred choice)
- The Tokyo Games for the Physically Handicapped
- Paralympics (The Organising Committee’s preferred choice, because it sounded nice)
The Organising Committee actually produced three different sets of information for the Games, which were identical except for the name of the Games.
Tel Aviv 1968
Members of the German team, when applying for visas, had to complete a questionnaire about their political past e.g. – whether they had been de- Nazified and in what category, which was a national law in Israel at the time.
Heidelberg was the first time Kenya competed at the Paralympic Games. Kenya’s first ever Paralympic gold medal (and their only medal in Heidelberg) came in the men’s 25 m freestyle class 2 swimming event. It was won by John Britton, who had also won the gold medal for the same event in Tel Aviv four years earlier. However, on that occasion he was swimming for Great Britain and had moved to live in Kenya in the intervening years.
Heidelberg was the first Paralympic Games that a certain Philip Craven (now Sir Philip Craven) participated in for Great Britain. He took part in athletics, swimming and wheelchair basketball, a sport in which he went on to be President of the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation before taking up his current role as President of the International Paralympic Committee.
Toronto was the first Games in which other disability groups competed, which did not pass off without incident. On the evening of Friday 6th August Sharon Myers (29), an American paraplegic athlete and swimmer, was injured when a blind runner veered off the track and ran into her. Sharon suffered a seven stitch cut on her cheek, a black eye and a knee injury when she was thrown from her chair.
Despite Stoke Mandeville being the spiritual home of the Paralympic Games the Games in Arnhem were the very first to have a programme made about them by the BBC. The 60 minute documentary was narrated by former rugby union player Cliff Morgan who had himself spent a year in a rehabilitation centre following a stroke ten years earlier and was broadcast on BBC1 at 7.00pm on the 17th July.
New York 1984
New York was the very first time that China had competed in the Paralympic Games and it was all down the hard work of a British ex-patriot, David Griffiths, who was working at the time as General Manager of the Jubilee Sports Centre in Hong Kong. David, a former manager of Wembley Stadium, ran almost fifty miles a day for over fifty days from Beijing to Hong Kong and raised nearly two and a half million dollars in the process. This money was then used to send a team from Hong Kong and a team from China to the Games in New York, as well as to kit them out.
Stoke Mandeville 1984
The Olympic flag as well as the flags of all of the competing nations were hung out in Aylesbury Market Square from Monday 16th August. Within 48 hours the Olympic flag had been stolen and the flags of Jamaica and Italy had been taken down, ripped up and posted through the letter box of a nearby public house. However, it was possible to repair these two flags and re-hang them, only for them to go missing again, along with the flags of Iceland and Ireland, within 24 hours. It cost £135 of tax payers money to replace the missing flags.
Seoul was the first Paralympic Games the Soviet Union had ever taken part in. Team manager, Olga Bogdanova, put their participation down to the broad social changes and re-structuring going on in the Soviet Union at the time under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev. However, the team consisted only of 22 blind athletes as sport for other disabilities was not yet properly developed within the Soviet Union.
The first three positive doping tests ever recorded at a Paralympic Games occurred in Barcelona. They were a shot putter, a judo player and a wheelchair basketball player from the USA, David Kiley, whose positive test for a banned substance led to the disqualification the American men’s wheelchair basketball team who had won the gold medal in Seoul and a request for the whole team to return their medals in order that they could be re-distributed to the Dutch team they had beaten in the final.
Britain’s 5-a-side football quarter final against host nation and tournament favourites Spain was mired in controversy with five players being booked, one being sent off and the match lasting a total of two hours and twelve minutes. With Spain leading 2-0 Britain had defender David Haston sent off for a second bookable offence, but still managed to fight back and win 9-8. British Coach David Agnew wrote to the organising committee after the game to complain about the standard of officiating at the game and demanding to know why the clock had been stopped every time the ball went out of play, which had not happened in any of their previous games.
Organisers of the Atlanta Paralympic Games had to pay $1million to get the Games broadcast on American television. This is in stark contrast to the $456million paid to the organisers of the Atlanta Olympic Games by NBC for the rights to broadcast them on American television.
When the two Independent Paralympic Athletes, Mateus Lucas and Alcino Pereira, from East Timor were entering the Paralympic Village through one of the security check points Police Senior Constable Barry Parrish noticed whilst checking their bags that they had nothing in them. With the help of friends and local businesses Barry collected donations including clothing, toiletries, travel bags and other personal items to give to the athletes in order to make their stay more comfortable and a lot warmer.
Twelve year old Jessica Long, a double leg amputee from the USA won three gold medals in the pool. Long was born in a Siberian orphanage and later adopted by an American family. She had both legs amputated at 18 months old, but made the US Paralympic team after competing for only two years.
In her fifth Paralympic Games 53 year old Barbara Buchan from the USA won her first Paralympic gold medal when she won the women’s 3 km individual pursuit LC3-4/ CP3 category setting a new world record in the process and becoming the oldest cycling champion at the Beijing Games.
For more trivia or information regarding the summer Paralympic Games please see:
Brittain, I., 2012, From Stoke Mandeville to Stratford: A history of the summer Paralympic Games, Commonground Publishing; Champaign, Il.