On 29 July 1948, the day of the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in London, Great Britain, the Stoke Mandeville Games were founded, and the first competitions for athletes with spinal cord injuries took place on the hospital grounds in Stoke Mandeville. Two British teams with 14 former servicemen and two former servicewomen competed in Archery. From then on, the Stoke Mandeville Games were to be held annually. In 1952, Dutch ex-servicemen joined the movement - the International Stoke Mandeville Games were established.
In 1960, the International Stoke Mandeville Games were staged for the first time in the same country and city as the Olympic Games. They have gone down in history as the "First Paralympic Games".
Through the last sixty years, the Paralympic Movement certainly has gained some ground and become a successful meeting of elite athletes with a disability. They continually have demonstrated every aspect of the Paralympic Values, including Courage, Determination, Inspiration and Equality. This sixty-year milestone is a reason to celebrate, but it is likely to not be a reason to stop pushing towards sporting excellence.
This September in Beijing, Paralympic athletes and the International Paralympic Committee will look ahead to the future and once again inspire all audiences at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. More records will inevitably be broken, and sporting excellence will continue. This will definitely be a 60-year work-in-progress that is worth celebrating.
For more information about the history of sport for athletes with a disability and the Paralympic Movement, please visit the official website at www.paralympic.org.