Games Overview: 1960-2012

This section contains information on each Paralympic Games, from 1960 to 2012.

  • Rome, Italy 1960

  • In 1960 the International Stoke Mandeville Games for the Paralysed - as the Games were called - were held for the ninth time. But, for the first time, they took place away from the hospital where they started and moved to Rome, Italy beginning a week after the XXVII Olympic Games ended. It was only retrospectively the event became known as the first Paralympic Games.Maragaret Maughan

    The 400 athletes from 21 nations were to have stayed in wheelchair-accessible accommodation but they arrived to find it no longer available and stayed in flats which were built on stilts instead. The Italian army were brought in to carry them up and down the stairs.

    Events took place on a sports ground about a 40 minute drive away and packed lunches were provided to participants.

    After the Games ended Pope John XXIII made a speech at Vatican City.
"We had packed lunches delivered. We thought they were lovely - they each had a bottle of wine."Margaret Maughan, winner of Britain's first Paralympic gold medal in Archery, Women's Columbia Round Open
  • Tokyo, Japan 1964

  • The 1960 Games were such a success plans started early for the 1964 Games which were held in Tokyo, Japan. The Olympic Games ended on October 24 and on Sunday, November 8, two weeks later, the Opening Ceremony of the International Stoke Mandeville Games for the Paralysed was held. The Games ended on November 12.

    Nations participating were, according to The Cord: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Ceylon, Fiji, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malta, Netherlands, Philippines, Rhodesia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA.

    The Games were opened by Crown Prince Akihito and Crown Princess Michiko, now the Emperor and Empress of Japan.

    Athletes stayed in single-level bungalows, just as the Olympic athletes had.  Tokyo was the last Games, until Seoul 1988, when Olympic and Paralympic athletes competed in the same city.
    'The first preparations for the 1964 Games to be held in Tokyo started way back in 1960 during the Games in Rome.'Joan Scruton, wirting in a Special Edition of The Cord published after the 1960 Games
  • Tel Aviv, Israel 1968

  • Caz WaltonThe 1968 Olympic Games were held in Mexico City but medical experts were worried the high altitude, and lack of oxygen, would be too dangerous for athletes to compete in so the Games were held in Tel Aviv, Israel instead.

    As the Arab/Israeli Six Day War had just ended the odd skirmish could still be seen in the skies above.

    The Opening Ceremony was held in Jerusalem and athletes travelled in buses to attend. The Games were still only open to those with spinal injuries. During this time it was quite normal for athletes to have to compete in more than one event in order to be selected for the team.

    "You could see the planes having a go at each other."Caz Walton, winner of 10 gold medals for Great Britain in Athletics, Table Tennis and Fencing between 1964-1988
  • Heidelberg, Germany 1972

  • In 1972 Heidelberg was the German city chosen to host the Paralympic Games while the Olympic Games took place in Munich.  This was the last Games where competition was confined to those with spinal cord injuries and related illnesses.  At these Games athletes with visual impairments took part in demonstration events as a forerunner to their full inclusion.

    The 21 nations represented at the Rome Games in 1960 had, by Heidelberg, grown to 43 while the number of athletes participating had more than doubled from 400 in Rome to 984 in Heidelberg.
    "Heidelberg was a lovely little city."Margaret Maughan, gold medal winner, Dartarchery, 1972
  • Toronto, Canada 1976

  • Montreal was the host city of the Olympic Games in 1976 and Toronto the home of the Paralympic Games.Ludwig Guttmann

    Accommodation was in universities which, according to some athletes, was less than ideal as there were long queues to get in and out of the lifts and to the venues.

    But significantly two new impairment groups were added in 1976 - athletes who were blind or had a visual impairment and athletes with amputations.

    Other impairment groups had wanted to be included as far back as 1960 but Guttmann was adamant to do so would have impacted, negatively, on those with a spinal injury.

    Toronto was the Games which changed that.
    ‘It is quite impossible to open the Stoke Mandeville Games to other forms of disability, such as amputees and the blind. This would be at the expense of the paraplegic sportsman.'Ludwig Gutmann, writing in a Special Edition of The Cord after the 1960 Games
  • Arnheim, Holland 1980

  • Tony SainsburyIf Toronto was a turning point the 1980 Games, in Arnheim, Holland (the Olympic Games of the same year were held in Moscow, Russia) continued the theme of change. It was here athletes with cerebral palsy were able to compete for the firrst time.

    Guttmann died in March 1980, before the Arnheim Games opened in June the same year, but by now the Games were becoming less and less about medical rehabilitation. Instead of doctors being the driving force behind men and women getting involved in disabled sport it was, increasingly, friends or relatives who made the suggestion.
    "The Dutch were very well organised. They did a really good Games. They were bedevilled by the weather - it rained for three weeks - but they really started to grab the Games and move it on."Tony Sainsbury, Chef de Mission of the Great Britain Paralympic team from 1980-1996
  • 1984 Stoke Mandeville, United Kingdom and New York, USA 1984

  • It had been intended that the 1984 Games be held in two cities in America; the wheelchair events in Champaign, Ilinois and all other events in New York.  In the end the Illinois part of the Games collapsed and Stoke Mandeville stepped in at the last minute to take over the wheelchair events.

    The other events took place in New York, as planned.

    In Britian the wheelchair events, and the required fund raising, had to be organised in a matter of months, not years, and although the Games was not the all-encompassing event in one destination that had been anticipated, continuity was maintained.

    They were opened by Prince Charles who addressed the assembled athletes before moving among them.
‘The crowd, stirred by the emotive sight of hundreds of wheelchair athletes gliding past, clapped enthusiastically.’From 'Spirit of Stoke Mandeville' by Susan Goodman
  • Seoul, South Korea 1988

  • These are the Games widely believed to have changed the expectation, awareness and appreciation of Paralympic sport forever. They were also the point from which all Paralympic Games were held in the same city as the Olympic Games.

    The South Koreans totally embraced and welcomed the idea of Paralympic sport. Church communities and school children noisily packed themselves into the various venues ensuring atheltes competed in front of sell-out crowds day after day.

    It was an experience that stayed with athletes and officials long after the Games ended.
    "I will never ever forget it. For the first time in history teams were recognised and identified in a sporting situation. A lot of my team were crying with emotion."Tony Sainsbury, Chef de Mission of the Great Britain Paralympic team from 1980-1996
  • Barcelona, Spain 1992

  • Chris HolmesBetween the end of Seoul in 1988 and the opening of the Paralympic Games in Barcelona in September 1992 there was a big jump in competition standards. As a result the Games were a great success and not just because of improved sporting professionalism. The organisation was superb and large, enthusiastic crowds came to watch.

    In total 15 sports were on the programme including Wheelchair Tennis, for the first time. A demonstration event, in Seoul four years earlier, Wheelchair Tennis attained full Paralympic status in 1992.
    "The glorious Paralympic Games are at their best when competition takes part in front of buzzing crowds, as was the case at Barcelona 1992."Chris Holmes, winner of six Swimming gold medals at Barcelona 1992. Taken from Paralympic Heroes by Cathy Wood
  • Atlanta, USA 1996

  • As both 1988 and 1992 were landmark Games, for different reasons, it meant Atlanta had two tough acts to follow. And on top of that they had their own challenges to overcome including transport, issues over accommodation and a lack of spectator numbers.Tanni Grey-Thompson

    But whatever the drawbacks the Atlanta Games ensured continuity for the Paralympic Movement and, most importantly, for athletes who wanted to compete at the highest level. And Atlanta meant the Paralymmpic Games continued to be held in the same city as the Olympic Games.

    Atlanta was also the Games which saw the inclusion of the sixth, and so far, final disabilty group - athletes with learning disability although, as it turned out, their inclusion turned out to be short-lived.
"Atlanta did not feel very professional. I think people tried hard."Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, winner of 11 Paralympic gold medals in a career spanning five Games from 1988-2004
  • Sydney, Australia 2000

  • Clare StrangeIf Atlanta fell short of expectations Sydney, in October 2000, exceeded them including a typically warm Antipodean welcome for athletes, and spectators.

    Sporting performances continued to reach new levels while in excess of one million tickets were sold to the public, a record in Games history at that point.

    Britain’s outstanding wheelchair racer, Tanni Grey-Thompson, competing at the fourth of five Games, won four golds -  the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m - in her classification category on the track.
    "The Olympics had finished and people just wanted more of it. Then along came the Paralympics and everyone embraced it. Sydney made massive inroads into what the Paralympic Games could be."Clare Strange, GB Wheelchair Basketball player
  • Athens, Greece 2004

  • In 2004 the modern Olympic Games came back to its birthplace, Greece, while the Paralympic Games were held here for the first time.Pete Norfolk

    In total just over 3800 athletes attended from 135 countries, participating in 19 sports, one less than the 20 at London 2012.

    British rider, Lee Pearson, won three gold medals in Equestrian, just as he did in the preceding Games, Sydney 2000, and in the Games that followed, Beijing, 2008.

    In Sydney, 2000, China didn’t even feature in the top five in the medal table. But a lot can happen in a four-year Paralympic cycle and by Athens they were unassailable winners with 141 medals of which 63 were gold.

    Second-placed Britain (94 medals in total) ended the Games with 35 gold medals.
    "I remember hitting the last shot and as soon as the ball had left the racquet I knew I had won."Peter Norfolk, Britain's first ever winner of a Paralympic Tennis medal when he won gold in the inaugural Quad Singles in Athens
  • Beijing, China 2008

  • Britain’s Paralympic team for Beijing was better prepared, and funded, than any that had gone before. And it showed. ParalympicsGB amassed 102 medals, 42 of which were gold, and finished second only to the all-conquering Chinese.

    For the athletes, though, Beijing was significant for other reasons including new benchmarks in sporting performance and an ever-growing media interest to record and report their achievements. 

    For some of those watching in the iconic Bird’s Nest stadium as the Games came to a close there was also a moment in history few could ever have imagined.

    As part of Games protocol the flag of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is passed from the outgoing host city (Beijing) to the city chosen to host the next Games (London). Participating in this was Sir Philip Craven, a former Great Britain Paralympic athlete and, today, President of the IPC.  

    Craven is one of a select group involved for long enough to have known Ludwig Guttmann and to have seen the Paralympic Movement grow and change from an infant Archery competition involving 16 athletes in 1948 to a worldwide sporting movement embracing 20 sports and almost 4,000 athletes from across the globe.
    "Beijing was insane. It was bigger, brighter and louder than any Games I have ever been to."Dave Roberts, winner of 11 Paralympic gold medals in swimmer. Taken from, ‘Paralympic Heroes’ by Cathy Wood.
  • London, UK 2012

  • Pete Norfolk at the London 2012 opening ceremonyIn his speech at the Closing Ceremony of London 2012, IPC President Sir Philip Craven described the London Games as "the greatest Paralympic Games ever". With packed stadia, the nation glued to their TV sets, and British Paralympians on the front pages of the national press every day, it is easy to see why.

    Over 4200 athletes from 164 countries competed in 20 sports, breaking 251 world records in the process. ParalympicsGB, with a team of 300 athletes, won 120 medals in total; their greatest medal haul of all time.

    For the first time, British Paralympians were recognised for the truly elite sportsmen and women that they are. They proved that Paralympic sport is worthy of coverage on TV and in the press, and that the British public have an appetite for it.

    "In every venue we saw it all - personal bests, continental records, Paralympics records and world records."Penny Briscoe

    Just as importantly, the Paralympics in London made a lot of people rethink their views on what disabled people are capable of, including many children and young people. The positive impact of this won't be known for years, but it will be significant.


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