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


Bob Scotney said...

Brilliant article, Hilary. I was fascinated by the Best of Men although I didn't go along with a description I saw in the Times - 'a comedy documentary.' Well worth seeing.

Jannie Funster said...

Fascinating, Hilary. That they are parallel to the Summer and Winter Olympics and how the games got their name is something I learned here.

Guttman is a Good Man indeed!

Best of luck with your planning details for October.

I'll miss you on the blogs, but that's life!


Diane said...

Great post Hilary, I really enjoyed it. I am a great admirer of Tanni Grey-Thompson, I think she is amazing. Take care and take your time over the memorial service. We will all be around when you return. Diane

Anonymous said...

Hi, Hilary! Thank you for sharing this interesting post on the Paralympics history. I'll be sure to check out the links to learn more.

Best wishes with your mother's memorial service.

~Sia McKye~ said...

I have to hunt up the movie. I like his philosophy with injured servicemen--life isn't over, it's changed but there is still much one can do. My oldest brother was in a wheelchair. The things he could do with that chair!

Fascinating look at the Paralympic Games!

Sia McKye's Thoughts...OVER COFFEE

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Bob - I thought the documentary was great too .. but I didn't see that review .. though there was quite a lot of ribaldry .. many thanks ..

@ Jannie - great to see you - and glad you learnt about the evolution of the Games - all forms .. Guttmann must have been incredible - he looks so benign, yet had that inner core of steel to realise self-esteem was essential.

Thanks re the Memorial .. busy writing out invitations ... I'll try and get back to the blogs - but occasionally I just can't keep up! xoxoxo

@ Diane - many thanks re your thoughts about the Memorial Service .. slow but sure, after a slothful start!

I sure hope people will have their eyes opened by these Games and the incredible people who are participating ...

@ Susanne - delighted you'll be checking out the links - I hope the film is there .. it doesn't appear to be, but no doubt one day will be released.

Thank you re your thoughts for my Mama's Memorial Service ..

@ Sia - sorry the movie doesn't appear to show .. it's first viewing here was in mid-August - so it's brand new. It'll be worth seeing when it does come out and is available in the States ...

That must have been fascinating to spend time with your brother, as presumably his chair was just a part of him and he used it at will - I can believe he could do great things ... incredible what they do now ...

You have an understanding of what it means to be in a chair .. from your brother and so these games will resonate with you.

Sadly NBC isn't featuring the Paralympic Games at all ... sad, but true ..

Many thanks Bob, Jannie, Diane, Susanne and Sia ... glad you enjoyed the post - cheers Hilary

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Powerful photos, Hilary. I'll look for the movie on Netflix. They have a slew of British films.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Joylene .. I'm fairly certain it won't be available yet ... as it's so new - somewhere along the line I hope it'll be 'let loose' sometime soon and when it does and I find out - I'll do another post reminding us all. It was very powerful ..

Cheers Hilary

Golden Eagle said...

Sounds like Dr. Guttmann had a huge influence on the Games!

Fascinating post, as always.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Dr. Guttman was obviously a brilliant and caring man, and because of him, many people are living fuller lives who would've otherwise been left behind. The Paralympics competitors concentrate on what they CAN do, instead of what they CAN'T. We could all stand to learn from them.

Gattina said...

I admire these people so much ! it is amazing what they perform ! and others sit around and complain about their headache ! Interesting post !

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

What an amazing story! And amazing people who compete in the games.

Birdie said...

I never knew there was so much history behind the Paralympic Games! Great post. :-)

Susan Scheid said...

The paralympics are the most wonderful thing, aren't they? So suffused with hope!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Hilary -

Thanks for the link! You made my day. :)

People have learned that it's not enough to care for the body alone. We also have a soul and spirit that must be nourished.


Chase March said...

The Paralympic Games are amazing to watch. It's inspiring to see what these athletes are capable of.

Hope the festivities are still going strong fro you over there.


Chuck said...

Again more information on a subject I know little about. Shame they don't televise or make a big spectacle of the Paralympics. They may not need near the overwhelming coverage the Olympics gets but a few nights to show off what these people work so hard for would be great.

Thanks for another informative post and I hope your mother's memorial turns out well. I know what you're going through on that.

Take care and we'll see ya when you return!

Juliet said...

Hilary, this is such an interesting background to the paralympics. I had no idea how they had started. Isn't it amazing what one passionate person can do to change people's lives.
I've had to hunt you down again because once more Blogger has dropped you from my list.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ GE - his name is cropping up all the time .. he was recognised for his work with spinal cord problems and thus disability as a whole.

@ Susan - how true .. he facilitated so many in their lives and that opening our minds to others' possibilities was definitely exposed last night.

We all CAN do so much more than we think we can, or often want to do .. but stretching ourselves is something so valuable ..

@ Gattina - you've got it right .. we so often complain about such mundane things .. I hope the Paralympics will inspire us all.

@ Alex - right on both counts .. amazing man and thank goodness he did get to England ... but the athletes and supporters are incredible in their inspirational approach.

@ Birdie - the history is fascinating isn't it .. thanks

@ Susan - lovely words: 'suffused with hope' ...

@ Susan - pleasure for the shout out - your stretching post today is so applicable here ..

@ Chase - as a teacher you'd appreciate these Games by including it into your classroom as and when appropriate.

The Opening Ceremony was a sight to behold .. and I'm sure the start of the action today will be enlightening to many ...

@ Chuck - we have full coverage .. but the NBC decided to take all their reporters back to the States - they had more on site than the BBC did!!

I hope some will get reported and the inspiration that the Paralympians give the world - frankly should not warrant withdrawal from one of the major broadcasters in the largest democratic country in the world.

Thanks for your thoughts .. I'll be around - but not quite so much ..

@ Juliet - delighted that you found the read informative .. I guess as a doctor if you find what's right - you do what's right for your patients ... thankfully Dr Guttmann did and has made so many people's lives richer.

I certainly don't understand some things blogger does -

Cheers everyone .. many thanks - Hilary

Ciara said...

Wheelchair Rugby is intense and crazy. People flipping out of chairs and slamming into each other. It use to make me so nervous. Those guys are fearless.

Old Kitty said...

I totally loved the Best of Men!! Bestest thing on telly after the Olympics and before the Paralympics!! Brilliant!! Take care

Rosalind Adam said...

It's so good that these games are now gaining such high levels of interest. I was a bit disappointed with Channel 4's presentation of the opening ceremony last night. Here's hoping they do a better job with the actual competition.

Jo said...

As usual full of lots of information. Thanks Hilary. Best of luck with your arrangements.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Ciara - I'm looking forward to seeing some of the sports on the tv. I gather the team players are fearless - should be very interesting and a shock to see, til I get used to it ...

@ Old Kitty - enjoy some of your time off. So pleased you endorse the film - it was great wasn't it ... hope others around the world can get to see it sometime soon ..

Let's hope the Paralympics will be as inspiring as the Olympics ..

@ Ros - yes .. the media is talking about the Paralympics with a different thought process - finally .... and reminding us of different aspects: we don't think about.

I think the transference from news reporting to Opening Ceremony reportage .... must be pretty challenging - you can see 'their anxiety' ... also the Beeb are hovering in the background.

The classifications are going to be interesting to learn about - certainly the parameters are being put over - just a challenge for us to absorb ... we're so used to visually seeing and not thinking about the race we're watching ... yet with the paralympians we need to understand their disability too ...

Our eyes will be opened in more ways than one ..

@ Jo - thanks, I hope they show some of the Paralympics in Canada .. Thanks re your thoughts and the Memorial Service ..

Cheers Ciara, Old Kitty, Ros and Jo .. Hilary

Sara said...

I loved this post and especially your words "encouraged (coerced)" I guess we need people like Dr. Guttmann to coerce us to realizing the amazing things people can do.

I hope all goes well with your mother's memorial service. I know there's a lot you will have to do. Just take good care of yourself and come back when you can.

MTeacress said...

Wonderful. I admire all athletes, but these are at the top of my list because they do what I do not think I ever could.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Sara - hope your kitchen renovations are coming along happily - perhaps you needed a coffee break and to read a few blogs!

Dr Guttmann is getting a huge amount of coverage ... the film was incredibly informative .. I hope we all take on board what Paralympians do, as well as what aspiring para-humans can do ...

The stories that are being told are extraordinary ..

Thanks re our Memorial Service - I'm getting there ..

@ Michelle - I agree any athlete puts hours of dedication in - usually with a job in tow, before they achieve funding levels ...

... however the dis-abled athletes so much more and are well worth our admiration for their courage.

Thanks Sara and Michelle - good to see you - have happy weekends - holiday time for you ... cheers Hilary