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Olympics-Facts

Google celebrates birthday of Ludwig Guttmann, father of Modern Paralympics

The father of the modern Paralympics was born on this day in 1899 and the world deserves to know the story of the genius himself.

Ludwig Guttmann at the 1964 Tokyo Paralympics
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Ludwig Guttmann at the 1964 Tokyo Paralympics (source- paralympic.org)

By

C.C. Chengappa

Updated: 2021-07-03T16:47:16+05:30

Pierre De Coubertin is a name that has been doing the rounds lately given the Tokyo Olympics are about to begin. Another individual who must be credited for having established a sporting event for the disabled is Ludwig Guttmann. The Paralympics held every 4 years is his brainchild and stands to be the first-ever international sporting tournament for disabled people.

Born on 3rd July 1899, Ludwig Guttmann trained to be a doctor and was involved heavily in treating patients in and around where he lived. Post-World War I, there was a heavy crackdown on Jews and Guttmann began to see fewer opportunities in the medical front. He was confined to working in a hospital for Jews and was constantly monitored by the Gestapo. He managed to save several patients from being deported to concentration camps during the early days of Hitler's rule. His escape from Germany happened by chance as he was ordered to treat an acquaintance of the Portuguese dictator in 1939. He used this to reroute his journey to England where he was offered a job to treat refugees in Oxford. Guttmann's managed to settle down with assistance and were safe from the scourges of war that was going on in Germany. This was also the place where he would have the opportunity to help set up a hospital wing dedicated to treating Spinal Injuries. While this was mainly for pilots, it was also a way that Guttmann could help apply his medical practice of using sport as a form of therapy for those recovering from injuries.

The birth of the Paralympic Games was at the first Stoke Mandeville Games. It was the name of the hospital which Guttmann worked at and the event was held on 29th July 1948. This was also the same day as the London Olympics began. The first year only had competitors in wheelchairs but this was to grow in the subsequent years. In 1952, there were over 100 international competitors as well which also gave the Stoke Mandeville Games an international flavour. The International Olympic Committee recognised Guttmann's initiative and began promoting it as well post 1952. The competitors grew from only ex-serviceman to people with all kinds of disabilities from across the world.

Guttman's final victory was the 9th Stoke Mandeville Games that was held alongside the Rome Olympics in 1960. It was what later came to be known as the Modern Paralympics and till date, it is held religiously every 4 years to provide opportunities for disabled sportspersons.


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