When did the Paralympic Games start and how did the event get its name? : NPR
Walter Attenni / AP
Sports for athletes with disabilities have been around for more than a century, says the International Paralympic Committee.
But it wasn’t until after World War II that the official Paralympic Games began to take shape, with the aim of helping the many veterans and civilians who were injured during that time.
German-British neurologist Dr Ludwig Guttmann (who actually escaped the Nazis) opened a spine trauma center at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in 1944 at the behest of the British government.
At that time in the UK, “you were left in hospital to die because it was assumed you had nothing to contribute to society, so you might as well be allowed to run away”, the Baroness Tanni Gray Thompson, one of Britain’s most successful Paralympians told NPR in 2012. Guttmann took issue with that notion, she explained.
Activities there have increased both in scope and intensity. As the IPC says, “over time, rehabilitation sport has become a recreational sport and then a competitive sport”.
Diether Endlicher / AP
Four years later, as the 1948 Olympics kicked off in London, Guttmann organized an archery competition for wheelchair athletes. The Stoke Mandeville Games went international four years later when Dutch veterans joined them. They became the Rome Paralympic Games in 1960 and have been held every four years since.
The Paralympic and Olympic Games have been held in the same host cities and at the same venue since the 1988 Summer Games and the 1992 Winter Games, thanks to an agreement between the IPC and the International Olympic Committee.
It’s also literally in the name of the event. The word “Paralympic” comes from the Greek preposition “para” (beside) and the word “Olympic”, meaning that the two games exist side by side.
This story originally appeared on the Morning edition live blog.