History of Wheelchair Basketball
Sir Ludwig Guttmann
A historical perspective on wheelchair basketball would not be complete without mention of the second World War (1939-1945). One end result of this global crisis was that society was confronted with an unusual number of people with physical disabilities. These people let the world know that they had needs that had to be met beyond food, clothing and shelter; they had an ego, they were worthwhile, and they belonged!
The philosophy of the day was adaptation of particular sports as viewed through the eyes of rehabilitation staff. Basketball was perceived to be one of the most adaptable team sports, and was played in various parts of the world in the early 1940's.
On the world scene, Sir Ludwig Guttmann was given the task of starting a spinal cord injuries centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, England. The British Government funded the operation in 1944 with the view of having the second front assist individuals to cope with their disability, regain dignity and independence that may have been lost, and become happy, healthy and respected members of the community.
The Stoke Mandeville World Wheelchair Games in 1948 marked the beginning of organized wheelchair sports, and earned Sir Ludwig Guttmann the distinction of becoming recognized as an early pioneer.
The Paralympic Games
Four years later, competitors from the Netherlands joined the games and an international movement was born. Olympic style games for athletes with a disability were organized for the first time in Rome in 1960, now called Paralympics. In Toronto in 1976, other disability groups were added and the idea of merging together different disability groups for international sport competitions was born. In the same year, the first Paralympic Winter Games took place in Sweden.
Today, the Paralympics are elite sport events for athletes from six different disability groups. They emphasize, however, the participants' athletic achievements rather than their disability. The movement has grown dramatically since its first days. The number of athletes participating in Summer Paralympic Games has increased from 400 athletes from 23 countries in Rome in 1960 to 3806 athletes from 136 countries in Athens in 2004.
The Paralympic Games have always been held in the same year as the Olympic Games. Since the Seoul 1988 Paralympic Games and the Albertville 1992 Winter Paralympic Games they have also taken place at the same venues as the Olympics. On 19 June 2001, an agreement was signed between IOC and IPC securing this practice for the future. From the 2012 bid process onwards, the host city chosen to host the Olympic Games will be obliged to also host the Paralympics.
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