Well tomorrow is another day ... a chance to marvel and enjoy the fruits of others’ labours, while at the same time experiencing the euphoria the Paralympic Games ... London 2012 will, I am sure, change our attitude to disabled people for ever.
|Sir Ludwig Guttmann|
The eyes of the world are upon us ... but this time it will be the athletes who have above all struggled to overcome their own adversity, while achieving levels of abilities many of us would dream of.
Earlier this month the BBC broadcast “The Best of Men” a factually based TV film about Sir Ludwig Guttmann’s work at Stoke Mandeville during and after the Second World War.
The film describes the pioneering work of Dr Ludwig Guttmann, a Council Assisting Refugee Academic grantee neurosurgeon, with paraplegic patients which led to the foundation of these Paralympic Games.
|Archery at the first Stoke Mandeville Games 1948|
I highly recommend you watch this film ... either via the net, or when the Beeb releases it for overseas viewing ... we are seeing lots of references to it here. I’ve added a few links at the end of the post ... with the background and reviews.
Dr Guttmann was a Jewish neurologist, who escaped with his family to Britain in 1939. After a couple of years working in Oxford he was sent to Stoke Mandeville to work with severely injured servicemen. Guttmann was determined that the only way the patients would survive was to treat them as if they were as mobile (and normal) as possible.
|Fencing ... looks like foot and arm fencing?!|
but I think he's left-handed
Guttmann was tenacious to say the least, flying in the face of all and sundry – the powers that be, the nurses, the other doctors, and the patients – determined that just managing the injured servicemen’s decline was not part of his care plan.
Healing their infections came first, then bringing some life into the ward ... again determining that he was going to succeed in giving these young men something to live for ... an attitude of can do.
It was here that Guttmann, who had enjoyed fencing as a young man, encouraged (coerced) competitive exercise and sport as a way of both encouraging physical exercise and building self-esteem.
|Iran v South Africa in Beijing:|
The might of the British Civil Service could not deter him ... he ordered bows and arrows, balls, golf clubs, hockey sticks, wheel chairs ... with inexorable delay, but relentless prodding by the good Doctor these tools and kit became available.
Slowly the patients, nurses, doctors, families and authorities realised the possibilities that this approach offered to one and all - the injured men could at last begin to connect with the outside world.
They visited the local pub to challenge the regulars to arm-wrestling ... and so the choices continued ... challenges between each other in the wards, corridors and halls - wheelchair games moved outside ... variety is the spice of life – different sports were introduced.
|Wheelchair Rugby - known as 'murderball'|
- this is the hot ticket sport in 2012!
Team events encouraged other less able servicemen; this brought enthusiasm to participating, which brokered strength, stimulated limbs and triggered ideas for future possibilities ... giving them opportunities to think beyond the confines of a hospital ward.
A little history of this village to the east of Oxford and north-west of London, the village was originally recorded as Stoches in the Domesday Book of 1086, from the Old English word stoc meaning an outlying farm or hamlet.
The suffix Mandeville was first recorded in 1284 when the manor was owned by the powerful Norman family – de Mandeville. You might recognise the usage of the term Mandeville to describe the second Games’ mascot ...
Stoke Mandeville village in the 1830s had been badly affected by one of the cholera epidemics sweeping across England, to counter cross-infection ahospital was established on the parish border between the village and Aylesbury, county town of Buckinghamshire.
|Mandeville (L), Wenlock (R)|
Dr Guttmann organised the first Stoke Mandeville Games for disabled personnel on 28 July, the same day as the start of the 1948 London Olympic Games. There were 16 participants – fourteen men and two women – from two spinal units ... the Royal Star and Garter at that time in Surrey (now a hi-tech unit in Birmingham), and Stoke Mandeville.
As the annual event continued to grow, the ethos and efforts by all those involved startled to impress the organisers of the Olympic Games and members of the international community.
|Wheelchair athletics - the Canadian|
By 1952 there were 130 international competitors, then in 1960 Dr Guttmann’s vision was realised with the Games being held alongside the official XVll Olympiad in Rome with 400 athletes from 23 countries competing.
At the London 2012 Paralympic Games there will be 4,280 athletes from 166 countries participating in 20 sports, with five hundred events.
Slowly the Games evolved to include athletes from all disability groups – the background can be seen on the Wikipedia site ... and includes anyone with any range of disability as long as the qualifications are met.
SusanReinhardt mentioned the Special Olympics, founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, in her comment on my post the Cultural Olympiad – which the IOC recognises as the World Games and includes athletes with intellectual disabilities, and the Deaflympics for deaf athletes. See Wiki.
The inclusion of all in the Paralympic Games opens up the doors for many peoples, their families, carers and compassionate humans who share their lives with others less advantaged.
|Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson - our most|
successful paralympian and now ambassador
for the disadvantaged in all walks of life
The term “Paralympic” derives from the Greek preposition ‘beside’ or ‘alongside’ ... referring to the fact the Paralympic Games are held in parallel with the both Olympic Games – Summer and Winter.
It may have taken a while but Sir Ludwig Guttmann’s prophesy that ‘the Stoke Mandeville Games would achieve world fame as the disabled person’s equivalent of the Olympic Games’ ... today this is so ...
... but the boundaries between the Olympic and Paralympic Games have become blurred ... with the blade runners setting their sights on higher awards ... the London 2012 Paralympic Games looks to be opening the world’s eyes to amazing possibilities for us all.
Summer Paralympics 2012 - this Wikipedia page has succinct details
Sir Ludwig Guttman - Wiki details
Wikipedia details on the BBC film "The Best of Men" **
The Daily Telegraph's review of the tv documentary
British Paralympic Association - Bow and Arrow ... other tabs take you to other pages ....
** It does appear that the film is not available ... but I am sure it will come on line sometime. Its first viewing was only in the middle of August - hopefully between us ... we can let each other know - I'll do another post if it comes out overseas ... it is so well worth seeing ...
I'm slightly tied up in writing letters and setting up our mother's memorial service in Cornwall for early October ... so I won't be around too much.
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