Monday, March 17, 2014

About a week ago I watched The Best of Men. This was the second time I had watched it, the first time being when the Olympics and Paralympics were here, in England. For those of you not familiar with The Best of Men, it's about the Mandeville Games and how they went on to develop into the paralympics. The man that started all this was Dr Ludwig Guttman. Dr Gutmann was a Jewish German specialising in neurology, who came to England in 1939, and he settled in Oxford.

He worked at Stoke Mandeville, where he set up a ward specifically to care for the amount of people from the forces that found themselves with varying degrees of paralysis, due to injuries sustained in the war.

The biggest hurdle he faced was changing the view of others, including the medical profession, that despite the injuries that these people sustained, they could still contribute and achieve.

Guttman felt it was essential to restore hope and self belief in his patients, as well as practical retraining so that when they were well enough to leave they could once more contribute to society. And with this in mind, he decided to introduce sport to help rehabilitate his patients. Gutmann knew the benefits would be psychologically positive to his patients. One thing led to another and soon the Stoke Mandeville Games had begun. Initially this was with only two teams competing, made up of men and women.

 Word spread about the Stoke Mandeville Games, and in 1952 competitors arrived from Holland. By 1954, you could add Australia, Canada, Finland, Egypt and Israel to the list.

Rome, in 1960, held the first paralympic games, with athletes from 21 countries.

Over time the games have continued to grow with categories to include blind people, and amputees, and those with cerebral palsy, and still it continues to grow, with new games being added. In 2012 more than 4200 people from 164 competed in the Paralympics, and in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 there will be more games added, to a total of 22 sports.

I should think that Guttman is pleased with the legacy that he left.

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