On Saturday 30th March the new accessible National Paralympic Heritage Centre will be opened at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, the birthplace of the Paralympic Movement.
Telling the story of the Paralympic Movement, the Heritage Centre showcases objects, documents and memorabilia including tickets, medals, sports kit, photographs and programmes that were previously held in storage and not available to the general public. The Heritage Centre also incorporates interactive displays, videos and a handling collection, highlighting sports unique to the Paralympics such as goalball and boccia.
The Paralympic Movement began in the late 1940s at Stoke Mandeville Hospital where Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann encouraged wounded veterans to play sport as an aid to rehabilitation from spinal injury. This led to local competitions, to the Stoke Mandeville Games and to the Paralympic Games which today attracts international support and a global broadcast audience of more than 4 billion.
The National Paralympic Heritage Centre will celebrate and explore this unique history. The displays illustrate the determination, sportsmanship and vision that gave the world the Paralympic Games including:
- The life and work of Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann.
- Key milestones in the journey from the 1948 Stoke Mandeville Games
to the present day Paralympic Games.
- The development of wheelchair sports and technical innovations.
- Paralympic ceremonies.
This inspirational project would not be possible without the support of the British Paralympic Association, WheelPower – British Wheelchair Sport, Aylesbury Vale District Council and Buckinghamshire County Council. With grant aid from the Heritage Lottery Fund, AIM Biffa Award ‘History Makers’ Programme, Rothschild Foundation, Aylesbury Vale Community Chest, Heart of Bucks and the Wellcome Trust. The local community, who played an integral part in the establishment of the Paralympic Movement, continue to help by sharing their stories and volunteering as Ambassadors at the National Paralympic Heritage Centre.
Sir Philip Craven, Honorary President of the NPHT, said: “My first recollection of Stoke Mandeville was from the 1967 National Games when as a 17-year-old I saw wheelchair basketball being played outdoors and thus dependent on the weather. Looking back, I recall a small area of not too attractive land sandwiched between the back of a large hospital and a railway embankment. To think that this is where the unique Paralympic sporting spirit was born fuelled by the human energy of the athletes, coaches and volunteers. To know now that this fiery furnace of positive human energy will be remembered forever makes me very happy”.
Nigel Purse, Chairman of the NPHT, said: “Sports heritage has a wide appeal to the British public and with the support of our funders and founding partners we are able to celebrate the story of Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann and the development of the Paralympic Movement where it all began at Stoke Mandeville. As well as protecting the unique heritage that could so easily be lost, the real satisfaction will be to share the inspiration behind the Paralympic heritage sport stories which are ‘life changing’.”