Once again the world will be watching London as the city hosts the XIV Summer Paralympics. The spectacular opening ceremony will begin this evening with over 4,000 athletes from 166 nations expected to take part in 20 different sports across 503 events.
The Paralympic Games were created by Ludwig Guttmann in 1949, a German neurosurgeon who escaped the Nazi regime in Germany and found refuge in the United Kingdom. The games have grown from a small gathering of British World War II veterans to become one of the largest international sport events, second only to the Olympic Games. Guttmann was aware of the positive psychological benefits of physical activity and so his treatment regime included individual and team sports. Today Paralympians continue to strive for equal treatment with non-disabled Olympic athletes, highlighting their athletic achievements, and not their disability.
Various images from the 1992 and 1996 games in Barcelona and Atlanta. Courtesy of Australian Paralympic Committee (CC-BY-SA)
London 2012 is expected to be the most successful Paralympics to date, already smashing sales records before the start of the event. Thanks to Great Britain’s success during the recent Summer Olympics, there’s been a significant increase in demand for tickets than previous years. Also, this year sees the return of the Paralympic movement to its birthplace – the British village of Stoke Mandeville first hosted the Stoke Mandeville Games to coincide with the opening of the 1948 Summer Olympics in London.
Dutch participants from the Paralympic Games in Seoul. Image courtesy of Archief Eemland (CC-BY-3.0)
Learn more about the Olympic and Paralympic Games in our latest exhibition entitled ‘European Sport Heritage‘, available in English, French, Spanish and Dutch. Also take the time to explore over 100 historical records related to the Paralympic movement available through Europeana.
It’s now time to enjoy another twelve days of sporting action before it all ends for another four years! Who will you be cheering for?