Sir Ludwig Guttman

Copyright © Paralympic Games

The Dream of One Man

The Paralympic Games, originally called the International Wheelchair Games, was founded by Dr Ludwig Guttmann. A doctor of the Stoke Mandeville Hospital, he wanted to host a sports competition for British World War II veteran patients with spinal cord injuries. Dr. Guttmann’s aim was to have a top level competition similar to the Olympic Games for people with physical and mental disabilities. The first games were held in 1948 in London, right after the 1948 London Olympic games. In 1952, with Dutch war veteran competitors joining British ones, the event officially became an international competition.

Wheelchair Games to Paralympic Games

Although the initial games were only for war veterans, the accessibility of the games to people with disability improved. In the 1960 Rome Paralympic Games, 400 athletes from 23 countries participated in the first official Paralympic Games. During the Games from 1960-1976, only athletes in wheelchairs were allowed to participate. However, with more disability classifications included by 1976, athletes with different types of disabilities were included in the Games. In the 1976 Toronto Paralympic Games, more than 1,600 athletes from 32 countries participated.

Winter Paralympic Games 

In 1976, the first Winter Paralympic Games were held in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden. Originally, the Winter Games were held in the same year as the Summer Games. However, after the 1992 Winter Games, the Paralympic Games followed the Olympic Games by having a 2 year separation between the Winter Paralympic Games and the Summer Paralympic Games.

Olympic Games and Paralympic Games

Before 1988 Paralympic Games, the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games were not held one after another. However, this tradition changed during the 1988 Seoul Paralympic Games. For the first time, the Paralympic Games were held in the same city as the Olympic Games and used the same facilities as the Olympic Games. This tradition, which set precedent for the future games, became a formal agreement between the two organizations for 20 years from 2000-2020.