Wednesday 29 August 2012

Paralympics history – the Parallel Games ...

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.

Paralympic Flag

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:
Wheelchair Basketball
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
Josh Cassidy
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. 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Sunday 26 August 2012

Nobel Prizes ...

The Nobel Prizes came to my mind when I was thinking about gold medals and Susan Roebuck’s query wondering why there was not a gold medal for literature ... which as she said I answered in my Cultural Olympiad post.

Nobel Prize

Alfred Nobel (1833 – 1896) is remembered for dynamite and the Nobel Prizes ... but the family’s background is interesting ...  he was the third son born in Sweden into a family of engineers becoming a chemist, engineer and inventor.

His father lost his engineering business in St Petersburg and with his wife and two younger children (Alfred and Emil) moved back to Sweden.

Montage: St Petersburg
Ludvig (the 2nd eldest) stayed on in St Petersburg opening up an engineering factory producing cast-iron shells, which then became the largest manufacturer of gun carriages in Russia.

While running the factory, Ludvig asked their elder brother, Robert, to explore southern Russia for wood to make gun stocks for the Tsar’s military requirements.  Robert found oil instead, and in 1876 they set up a distillery in Baku, Azerbaijan on the Caspian Sea.

Baku 1861

Alfred had joined in the various family engineering ventures in Sweden and Russia, Emil, the youngest brother, had too – but was killed in an explosion during an experiment.

Ludvig Nobel was a strong humanitarian as well as business man, full of ideas and vision.  He introduced profit sharing and worked actively to improve working conditions in his factories.  His humanity and social approach was unique for the time.

The Nobel brothers must have influenced each other greatly for this humanitarian legacy to be thought about let alone put into practice.  Alfred’s fluency in languages, notably English, French, German and Russian brought other attributes to the table.

Sweden (dark green), Europe (light green) and
the eastern countries of Russia in dark gray
They invented all manner of things that are invaluable today ... plywood being one of them ... oil tankers, and better refineries, pipelines ... and of course explosives.

... their Wikipedia pages make interesting reading on the development of the oil industry via their investments in Baku and give an insight into life in Scandinavia/ Eastern Europe/ Western Asia in the 1800s ... before the Russia we know today came into existence.

Alfred amassed a fortune during his lifetime, with most of his wealth coming from his 355 inventions and investments, of which dynamite is the most famous ... but he also invented ballistite, a precursor to many smokeless military explosives, especially the British smokeless powder ‘cordite’.

The Nobel prizes came about by one of those unintended circumstances ... in 1888, Alfred was astonished to read his own obituary, titled “The merchant of death is dead”, in a French newspaper. 

Montage of  Baku, Azerbaijan
As it was Alfred’s brother, Ludvig, who had died, Alfred’s obituary was eight years premature ... but this inspired him to change his will ... he did not want to be remembered as the merchant of death ...

In his will, 1895, the Swedish philanthropist inventor Alfred Nobel established the disposition of prizes .... for Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, while the Peace prize came into being in 1901.

The family agreed to Alfred’s investment in Baku being withdrawn, and this along with his Swedish fortune enabled the Nobel Prizes to be established.

The Peace Prize logo
Their administration and management is under the auspices of the Nobel Foundation, set up in 1900 ... while the selection of candidates and ultimate prize winner/s (maximum of 3 for any one category) is overseen by the various professional Swedish and Norwegian Committees.

So it has been for over a century that Nobel’s desire for a better legacy has been these prizes for those who confer the “greatest benefit of mankind” in the five categories ...

The journey from Olympia acknowledging sporting, artistic or cultural triumph rewarded with olive and laurel wreaths, to Nobel Prizes measured in millions of dollars received by candidates whose research has benefited mankind, to sporting records, perhaps an Olympic medal, and who, we hope sincerely, will encourage all citizens to lead the best life possible for the benefit of all ... perhaps ultimately to a Nobel Peace Prize ...

Link to Wikipedia - Alfred Nobel ... see from their his brother's pages etc

Susan Roebuck - reader and author

My previous post on the Cultural Olympiad

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Thursday 23 August 2012

Floating Island and the Book Maze ...

No, they are not one and the same ... Talli Roland titled her post “Book Bliss” a couple of weeks ago ... and Annalisa Crawford, when commenting on my previous post, mentioned the Floating Island ... and they are both part of the Cultural Olympiad and ...

Floating Island off Svalbard, Norwegian Arctic

... came up in my search of the Festival London 2012 site, so I thought another post was due giving a little more explanation – and open your little grey cells to creatively what can be done.

Let’s ‘do’ the books first and Talli has very kindly let me use a couple of her photos ...

aMAZEme: is the giant installation of books that Talli saw and photographed when she went for a celebratory dinner at the Skylon the other day ....  this labyrinth of books was set up in The Clore Ballroom of the Royal Festival Hall.
The labyrinth of books from above

I could give you a ‘guess how many’ game ... but I’d like to finish the post today ... so to enlighten us all there are more than 250,000 books in this creation, covering 500 square metres, with sections standing 2.5 metres high (that’s 8 foot 2 inches 27/64ths tall!).

Talli's side on photo ... 
The Brazilian artists Marcos Saboya and Gualter Pupo were inspired to ‘build’ the maze by writer Jorge Luis Borges – which apparently forms the shape of Borges’ unique fingerprint (I hope someone will enlighten me ....!)

All the new books were donated by publishing houses, and the second-hand books have been loaned from Oxfam; when the maze is deconstructed at the end of the exhibition (Sunday 26th Aug), all of the books will be donated to Oxfam.

A corridor ... photo by Talli

Literary quotes were projected directly onto the labyrinth walls, with accompanying audio about the world of literature.

I had probably heard of Borges, but knowing nothing about him, I looked him up in Wikipedia – and found he’s an Argentinian author with a very interesting history ... I feel as many of you are literary whizz-kids – you will have heard of him and I’ll only direct you to Wikipedia to find out more.

The aMAZE .... 
But I did think this sentence was appropriate to the Book Labyrinth exhibition .... “A combination of book and maze, it can be read in many ways” – via Wiki and the Later Career entry on Jorge Luis Borges.

Then we have the artistic creation of the “Nowhereisland” .. which Annalisa Crawford mentioned in her comment on my last post ... so I had to investigate further ... but I’d spotted an Eden Project article that is pretty self-explanatory ...

Floating Island in St Ives Bay,
Cornwall - can you see Godrevy in
the background - where one of
the Peace Camps was held
The ‘floating island sculpture’ as its creators describe it, is actually a real piece of land being pulled by a tugboat on a tour from the Arctic as part of an initiative known as “Nowhereisland”.

It is making its way around the Southwest in the hope of stimulating debate around ideas like citizenship, nationhood and climate change, under the banner of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

Eden Project, Cornwall

I think at this point ... I direct you to the Eden article if you wish to know more ... Tim Smit, the CEO of the Eden Project, has contributed his ideas ... see the links.

There is also a film about the Embassy’s visit to Cornwall’s Mevagissey ... on the Eden Project site ...

So we have a tugboat towing a floating island around the shores of Britain from the Nyskjaeret-Svalbard, an archipelago in the Norwegian Arctic, and this fingerprint maze of books made by two Brazilians influenced by an Argentinian author ...

The tug towing the island on its
way to Bristol .. 

The floating island actually is a piece of land that emerged from a retreating glacier ... and Alex Hartley, the artist, 'found the island' adopted it ... and the rest is becoming history ... check out the Eden site ... 

This blog may be eclectic ... but these two creative artworks for the Cultural Olympiad (to me) take the biscuit ...

All links below to elucidate you and me as and when necessary ... enjoy ...

Talli Roland's: Book Bliss post 

 aMAZEme: A Labyrinth of Books 

Annalisa Crawford's blog - she's had a birthday and may be hibernating seeing as it's our Bank Holiday weekend ... ?!

Nowhereisland ... is a Situations project part of the London 2012 Festival led by artist Alex Hartley - as one of the lead artists in 'Taking the Lead' ... part of the Cultural Olympiad promotion.

Eden Project - New Island Nation artwork visited Eden last weekend 

Update on Peace Camps ...  go here to see a video of the Cuckmere Haven, Sussex Peace Camp ...   see my post ...  

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday 21 August 2012

The Cultural Olympiad ...

Have you heard of the Cultural Olympiad – I had, but had definitely not taken on board all the things that have been going on around the country ... I’ll attempt to give you a brief overview here.
Telling Stories .... once upon a time ....
Stories of the World

Where to start but ... Once Upon a Time in Olympia, the Ancient Olympic Games celebrated artistic achievement as well as sporting endeavour. 

William Penny Brookes, the doctor, and the inspiration behind the Much Wenlock ‘Agricultural’ Games in the 1850s wanted everyone in the community to join in ... whatever the activity. (see my previous post)

Baron de Coubertin, who established the Olympic movement we know today, noted many of the ideas Penny Brooks was advocating included cultural aspects.

Baron de Coubertin was determined to overlay the modern Olympic movement on the form of those ancient ideals – sport and culture.

Gulliver's Travels at the Edinburgh Festival
Once the Games got going properly in 1912, and up until 1948, there were competitions for medals in architecture, music, literature, sculpture and painting ... the so-called “Pentathlon of the Muses”.

An Olympiad among ancient Greeks, and especially in ancient literature, was a period of four years, being the interval between the celebrations of each (Summer) Olympic Games ... in fact this became a national method of ‘time’ – as locally each city-state had different methodologies.

Museum replica of a bronze discus
inscribed as a votive offering to
Zeus, by Asklepeiades of Corinth,
winner of the pentathlon in the
255th Olympiad 

The Games started off with foot races, but were as much a religious festival as an athletic event.  Temples erected, sculptures created to adorn those temples, sacrifices made ... the Olympian Games were regarded as sacred: the greatest games in the world.

A copy of Myron's
Sculptors, poets and other artisans would come to the games to display their works in what became an artistic competition ... Myron sculpted “the Discus Thrower” (5th C BC).

Poets would be commissioned to write prose in honour of the Olympic victors – these poems known - as Epinicians - were passed on from generation to generation.

The London 2012 Cultural Olympiad is the largest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic Movements.

British Embassy in Beijing joining in with the ringing
of the bells on the morning of the Opening Ceremony

Since 2008, the Cultural Olympiad has featured programmes and projects inspired by London 2012 (see here):

·        More than 16 million people across the UK have taken part in or attended performances

·        Over 169,000 people have attended more than 8,300 workshops

·        More than 3.7 million people took part in nearly 3,700 Open Weekend activities

·        Some 2,500 cultural projects have been awarded the London 2012 inspire mark

The culmination of the Cultural Olympiad is the London 2012 Festival, providing 10 million chances to see free world-class events throughout the UK.

Competition between artists may have ceased with the last London Games in 1948, but the commitment to celebrating culture and the arts survives.  

Noyes Fludde, Belfast: Benjamin Britten's much loved
children's opera in Belfast zoo

The London 2012 Festival runs from the Summer Solstice until the end of the Paralympics, on Sunday 9th September – some beyond that date.

There are theatre, dance and music events, art exhibitions and installations, specially commissioned films, and unique outdoor spectaculars around the UK that promise to make this Olympiad very special – many of these events are free, and the link is below.

One particular event I will come back to – as it is something global I’ve been wanting to write about ...

I’m going to list out some of the things that have been / are going on ...

London 2012 Festival:  (see here)
Mittwoch aus Licht - see left
·        The festival is part of the Edinburgh Festival
·        The world in London: A unique art exhibition that celebrates the diversity of London – featuring 204 photographic portraits of Londoners .... each originating from one of the nations competing at the Games ... a nation of everyone.
·        National Portrait Gallery “Road to 2012” – photographic portraits that celebrate world-class British athletes, coaches and managers, and some of the behind the scenes workers ... volunteers, transport workers, engineers etc  (19 July – 23 September)
·        Mittwoch aus Licht .... watch the helicopter string quartet performance at the Live Sites in Birmingham and Coventry TOMORROW 22nd August?!
·        Backstage Pass ... Get the Inside Scoop =  there’s lots of information here – including slide shows, videos etc etc ...
o   for example:     A train full of African and Western musicians traversing the UK

All aboard the Africa Express
 Inspire Programme:  2,700 projects inspired by the Games – are being used to inspire their local communities to make real and lasting change .... at Live Sites, via the Torch Relay and Flame Festivals  (see here)

Artists Taking the Lead: where artists have been encouraged to use the UK as a blank canvas, with fascinating results ... e.g. Peace Camps  (see link)

Discovering Places:  locally – exposing the hidden past, yet celebrating its history, while recognising and preserving its natural environment (see link)

Film Nation: Shorts gives 14 – 25 year olds the chance to make films celebrating the values of the Olympic and Paralympic Games ...

Competition parameters:  the youngsters are invited to create short films, max 3 minutes, that celebrate the values of the Olympic and Paralympic Games: respect, courage, excellence, friendship, equality, determination and inspiration.  (see here)

Legacy Trust UK: the umbrella organisational charity ... one of which is “Accentuate” - a programme inspired by the Paralympic Movement to provide deaf and disabled people access to new opportunities ... (see here)
Tarot Drome - Marisa Carnesky: see the  mystical characters
of the Tarot Deck come to life in this promenade theatre
show at the Old Vic Tunnels

New Music 20x12:  Twenty composers together with arts organisations have been brought together to create exciting new music, which will be performed across the length and breadth of the UK, including a weekend of celebration at London’s Southbank Centre ...

There’s an eclectic mix on offer – from contemporary classical, folk and opera to bell ringing, beatboxing, jazz and music for brass bands – each composer has been commissioned to create a 12 minute piece inspired by London 2012.  (link here)

Stories of the World: these exhibitions get young people working with curators, filmmakers, artists, writers and musicians to explore and reinterpret museum collections, giving a new perspective on the stories that tell us about our place in the world.

The museums participating are around the UK ... and it looks like some of the exhibitions will go on into October and some to year end ... so the opportunity exists for a visit.  (Link here)

Unlimited ..... 
 Unlimited: is the UK’s largest programme celebrating arts, culture and sport by deaf and disabled people.

Unlimited has spread beyond the shores of our islands with commission strands reaching Brazil, China, Colombia, Croatia, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Venezuela. (Link here)

The Cultural Olympiad has certainly embraced the united world the UK inhabits with its diverse population mix, allowing us to experience so many cultures and so much artistic expression.

The Parthenon in Athens - one of the
leading city-states of the ancient world
The awarding of the Olympic Games to London does appear to have been an inspired stroke of luck (genius) ... we speak English, we are democratic, we are so diverse, we have absorbed many cultures into our little island – yet we have great ideas ...

... and in this Jubilee year we have shown the world that there is so much merit in living together harmoniously, celebrating life as it can be lived – long may this legacy last.

I know this is long – yet I think it’s worth posting as we have a reference to remember all that has been happening ... and there’s more where this came from – be warned!  

Most of the information and many of the photos have come from the London 2012 websites ....

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories