Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann CBE FRS

Father of the Paralympic Movement, Guttmann was the medical pioneer who created the Paralympic Games.

Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann CBE FRSNational Paralympic Heritage Trust

Born in Tost in 1899

Ludwig Guttmann was born on the 3rd July 1899, the eldest child of four, in Tost, Upper Silesia now Toszek, Poland.

Exterior of Breslau University, GermanyNational Paralympic Heritage Trust

Studying and working at Breslau

Guttmann started his medical studies at the University of Breslau receiving his Doctorate of Medicine in 1924. In 1933 he was removed from his position as a neurosurgeon and lecturer when Jews were prevented from practising medicine under the Nuremberg Law. 

Dr Guttmann's arrival in the UK and his work at the National Spinal Injuries CentreNational Paralympic Heritage Trust

Guttmann arrives in the UK as a refugee

Requested by the Nazis, he treated a friend of the dictator in Portugal. On his return route home, via London, he stayed in the UK as a refugee. In March 1939 Guttmann and his family settled in Oxford where he continued his spinal injury research at the Radcliffe Infirmary. 

Aerial view of Stoke Mandeville Hospital (1943)National Paralympic Heritage Trust

The National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville

In September 1943 Guttmann helped establish the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, which was specifically for war veterans. Opening on the 1st February 1944 it was the first centre of its kind in the UK.

Early sports rehabilitation sessions (1940)National Paralympic Heritage Trust

Interview with Sir Philip Craven MBE, Paralympian

Guttmann used sport to rehabilitate

Guttmann believed that sport played an important role in the rehabilitation of injured military personnel. He was appointed Director of the National Spinal Injuries Centre on the 1st February 1944 until his retirement in 1966.

First wheelchair archery tournament with the Star and Garter (1948)National Paralympic Heritage Trust

The first Stoke Mandeville Games

On the 29th July 1948, Guttmann organised the first Stoke Mandeville Games for disabled war veterans on the same day as the opening of the London Olympics. 16 patients (14 men and 2 women) competed in archery.  These Games were the birth of the Paralympic Movement.

Israeli team at the Stoke Mandeville Games (1950)National Paralympic Heritage Trust

The Stoke Mandeville Games become an annual event

In the 1950s the Stoke Mandeville Games became an annual event. The local community involvement of volunteering and fundraising was of paramount importance.

Early wheelchair archery women's competition (1952)National Paralympic Heritage Trust

The first International Stoke Mandeville Games

In 1952, a small team of veterans from the Military Rehabilitation Centre at Aardenburg in the Netherlands travelled to Stoke Mandeville to compete against a number of British Teams. This was the first International Stoke Mandeville Games.

Guttmann receiving the Sir Thomas Fearnley Cup (1956)National Paralympic Heritage Trust

Awarded the Sir Thomas Fearnley Cup

At the 1956 Stoke Mandeville Games, Guttmann was awarded the Sir Thomas Fearnley Cup by the International Olympic Committee for his service to the Olympic movement. Sir Thomas donated the cup in 1950 to award sports organisations who had performed meritorious achievement.

Guttmann and wheelchair athletes before travelling to the Rome 1960 Paralympics (1960)National Paralympic Heritage Trust

Interview with Vicky Hope-Walker, CEO of NPHT

The first Paralympic Games

In 1960 Guttmann's vision for the equivalent of the Olympic Games was realised when the International Stoke Mandeville Games were held immediately after the Summer Olympics in Rome. These Games are now recognised as the first Paralympics.

Her Majesty the Queen greeting a wheelchair athlete. (1969)National Paralympic Heritage Trust

Opening of Stoke Mandeville Stadium

On the 2nd August 1969, Her Majesty the Queen officially opened Stoke Mandeville Stadium at the Birthplace of the Paralympic Games. Guttmann had been knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1966. The stadium is now home to WheelPower - British Wheelchair Sport.

Exterior of the Olympic Lodge Hotel, Stoke Mandeville (2019)National Paralympic Heritage Trust

The Olympic Lodge at Stoke Mandeville Stadium

On the 18th March 1980, Guttmann died aged 80 years of age. He didn't get to see his final project completed, the Olympic Lodge, which provided accessible accommodation for sporting events.

Programme of the Stoke Mandeville 1984 Paralympic Games (1984)National Paralympic Heritage Trust

Stoke Mandeville save the 1984 Paralympic Games

Guttmann's vision was very nearly lost when, with only six months to go, Illinois pulled out of the 1984 Paralympic Summer Games but Stoke Mandeville stepped in to save the day! 
Stoke Mandeville hosted the wheelchair athletes with New York hosting the other impairment groups.

Opening ceremony celebrations for the Seoul 1988 Paralympic Games (1988)National Paralympic Heritage Trust

Olympics and Paralympics hosted at Seoul, South Korea

In 1988 an agreement that the host nations of the Olympics must also host the Paralympics secured the Games' future. For the first time since Tokyo in 1964, both the Olympics and Paralympics were hosted at the same venue.

Paralympian, Margaret Maughan with the Paralympic torch (2012)National Paralympic Heritage Trust

Interview with Eva Loeffler OBE, Guttmann's daughter

The Paralympic Games return to the UK

The 2012 Paralympics saw the Games return to the UK. As well as being a spectacular sporting event it brought together the nation and highlighted attitudes to disability. Margaret Maughan, the first Paralympic gold medal winner, lit the cauldron at the opening ceremony.

Eva Loeffler OBE and Sir Philip Craven MBE opening the National Paralympic Heritage Centre (2018)National Paralympic Heritage Trust

Opening of the National Paralympic Heritage Centre

On the 29th March 2019, the National Paralympic Heritage Centre, at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, was opened by Sir Philip Craven MBE and Eva Loeffler OBE (Guttmann's daughter). The heritage centre celebrates the Paralympic Movement and Guttmann's legacy.

Credits: Story

Thank you to Eva Loeffler OBE, Getty Images, Halton RAF photography, the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS), the National Spinal Injuries Centre (NSIC), Sir Philip Craven MBE and WheelPower - British Wheelchair Sport for their support and contribution.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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